NYFF 2012: ‘Flight’ is a must see

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Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Written by John Gatins

2012, USA

Premiering at the closing night of the New York Film Festival, Robert Zemeckis dives back into live-action filmmaking from a twelve year motion capture hiatus with Flight. An audacious, well-matured character ensemble piece about a man whose most heroic venture may have resulted from his most innate pitfall, this provocative drama gives Denzel Washington one of the most layered and conflicting characters of his career. The Paramount release will be a gripping arrival on November 2 for audiences, proving to be the thought-provoking robust taste many will crave by year’s end.

From the film’s very raw beginning, we are introduced to commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washngton), a middle-aged man who knows how to live life large as well as the ropes to piloting. We meet Whip lying in bed at seven o-clock in Orlando from an alcohol induced coma, high on cocaine and fatigued by a sex rendezvous with attractive flight attendant Katerina (Nadine Velazquez). Taking a little toot up the nose, something Whip is all too familiar with, he quickly wakes up and both are off for their nine o-clock flight to Atlanta.

What follows is a first act spill-ride brilliantly conducted by Zemeckis and will surely fascinate and terrify audiences alike as they strap in with the 102 passengers. Dark skies and heavy rain emerge while the plane climbs to a bellowing halt by Whip who is confidently in control despite his lack of sleep and two dosages of vodka newly added into his system. Whit zooms up into the clouds, rattling the passengers and scaring the co-pilot (Brian Gerety) as he tops bolstering speeds. With only a moment of tranquility, Whit falls asleep at the controls but only for a short while; the plane plunges out of control on a vertical decent with both engines on fire. After lowering the landing gear and dumping fuel, Whip unnervingly and instinctively inverts the plane, manually forcing it to fly upside down to gain some air time before committing to an emergency landing on a nearby country field. Remarkably, the crash kills only six people including his beloved Katerina, and Whip manages to land into the hospital with minor injuries. With his unabashed wit and gutsy intuition, Whip becomes an instant hero. A title destined to change and one Whip is resilient to accept, he is than revisited with an old colleague and union representative Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), as well as drug dealer Harling Mays (John Goodman). As he is forced to live a new life under this unfortunate circumstance, the arrival of new and old relationships brings about the central conflict that will toy with Whip’s character growth until the very end of the film. Instructing Mays to rid him away of alcohol and drugs, they escape to his grandfather’s old barn where he explicitly lays low and throws out remnants of liquor in stocked cabinets.

Along the way we meet choke addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly) in which Whip builds a close connection with. It is trough Nicole that screenwriter John Gatins (Coach Carter, Dreamer, Real Steel) carefully titters the likeability and growth of Whips character. While Nicole has nothing to lose, Whip has everything including his teenage son (Justin Martin) and long career. As Nicole finds a job and attends AA meetings, Whip goes back on the wagon and continues to make bad choices. He goes out of his way to defy and resist the help of attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) which later tests his fate with chief inquisitor (Melissa Leo). At times we hate him and during other times we empathize with him. It’s a fine line that Gatins dances on ever so gentle and does so very well. Flight is a must see simply because it’s Hollywood done right. It’s a triple threat among its acting, directing but especially with its writing. Gatin sets the stakes both high and low for our main character, playing with our love and support for the protagonist. Whip is the layered anti-hero that is the epiphany of all anti-heroes, that can’t be structured without the heart of Washington, vision of Zemeckis and foundation build by Gatin. Not bad for a guy whose last venture was with fighting Transformer-like robots. Not bad at all.


– Chris Clemente

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