October 14, 2012 at 9:04 am #71726
Don’t think there has been a thread created for this yet – if there is, I’ll delete.
The initial trade reviews are in, and Flight looks like a sure bet for BP, actor nominations, and in the running for more. Denzel Washington looks like as good a shot for a third acting Oscar as D D-L. If no one else does, I’ll post the reviews in a few hours.
I’m seeing this tomorrow – can’t wait. It might be the best American film of the year.October 14, 2012 at 10:23 am #71728
I’m excied to see it.October 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm #71730
I’ll watch anything Mr Denzel Washington is in.
Ditto. He’s one of my all-time favorite actors and he consistently delivers solid to great work in everything he’s in. Saw the trailer before ‘Argo’ the other day and it took my breath away. Looks fantastic.October 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm #71731
Welp, I think Denzel can now be considered a serious frontrunner FOR THE WIN. Awesome.October 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm #71732
Fantastic review from The Holywood Reporter. Says at the very least this film is in the running for Best Actor (Washington) and Best Original Screenplay, and that the crash sequence warrants attention for Visual Effects and Sound Design as well.
Flight: New York Film Festival Review
8:30 AM PDT 10/14/2012 by Todd McCarthy
The Bottom Line
Denzel Washington excels as a pilot whose heroics hide a very dark side.
Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Brian Geraghty, Tamara Tunie, Nadine Velazquez, Peter Gerety, Garcelle Beauvais, Melissa Leo
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Denzel Washington stars in the Robert Zemeckis drama about an airline pilot who saves dozens of lives but faces prison because of drugs in his system.
After 12 years spent mucking about in the motion capture playpen, Robert Zemeckis parachutes back to where he belongs, in big-time, big-star, live-action filmmaking, with Flight. A gritty, full-bodied character study about a man whose most exceptional deed may, ironically, have resulted from his most flagrant flaw, this absorbing drama provides Denzel Washington with one of his meatiest, most complex roles, and he flies with it. World premiering as the closing night attraction at the 50th New York Film Festival, the Paramount release will be warmly welcomed by audiences in search of thoughtful, powerful adult fare upon its Nov. 2 opening.
Onscreen for nearly the entire running time, Washington has found one of the best parts of his career in Whip Whitaker, a middle-age pilot for a regional Southern airline who knows his stuff and can still get away with behaving half his age. In the film’s raw opening scene, he’s lying in bed in Orlando at 7 a.m. after an all-night booze, drugs and sex marathon with a sexy flight attendant. With a little help from some white powder, he reassures her they will make their 9 o’clock flight for Atlanta.
The gripping 20-minute interlude that follows has in every way been brilliantly orchestrated by Zemeckis and will mesmerize and terrify audiences in a manner that will make the film widely talked about, a must-see for many and perhaps a must-avoid for a few. The 102 passengers strap in for what could be bumpy flight; the weather looks awful. Rain is pelting down and the sky is dark but it’s all in a day’s work for Whip, who settles into the cockpit and greets a new co-pilot (Brian Gerety), while also sneaking two bottles’ worth of on-board vodka into his orange juice.
With his night’s companion Katerina (Nadine Velazquez) working the passenger compartment, Whit zooms up into the clouds, shaking up the passengers and scaring the co-pilot as he rams at top speed toward a pocket of clear sky. Having achieved momentary calm, Whit actually falls asleep at the controls but not for long; the jet loses its hydraulics and suddenly plunges into a uncontrolled descent, its engines on fire. After lowering the landing gear and dumping fuel, Whip freaks everyone out, and creates total chaos on board, by inverting the plane, manually forcing it to fly upside down to achieve some stability on the way down before righting the ship at the last minute to attempt an emergency landing in a field.
This breath-shortening sequence is eye-poppingly realistic, with cutting Eisenstein would have admired, right down to the exquisite details of Jehovah’s witnesses scrambling to get out of the way on the ground as the plane’s wing clips the steeple of their rural church. Miraculously, the plane lands more or less intact, although six people die. For his part, Whip is hospitalized with minor injuries. His daring and ingenuity having saved most of the passengers from certain death, he becomes an immediate national hero.
But this is not a role Whip is keen to embrace. Depressed to learn that Katerina was among those killed, he’s visited by old flying buddy and now pilot’s union rep Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), as well as by his Lebowski-world drug dealer Harling Mays (John Goodman), whom he instructs to keep the vodka away. At the same time, Whip meets red-headed Nicole (Kelly Reilly), an addict hospitalized after an o.d., with whom he develops a certain affinity.
Anxious to avoid the lurking media, Whip slips away to his family farm to hide out. The property belonged to his grandfather, his father’s Cessna in which Whip learned to fly is still in the barn and the cabinets are full of booze, which he methodically pours out. If he could stay here forever, unmolested and unnoticed, you suspect he would. But a tempest of trouble awaits him in the real world, as he learns what he already had to know; toxicological tests have revealed the booze and coke in his system at the time of the crash, which could result in serious prison time.
From this point on, the original screenplay by John Gatins (Coach Carter, Dreamer, Real Steel) closely charts the ins and outs and ups and downs of Whip’s addiction, a struggle he shares part-time with Nicole. Unlike him, she has nothing to show for her life, as well as no prospects unless she shapes up once and for all. When Whip learns what’s in store for him legally, he hits the bottle again just as Nicole goes on the wagon, which doesn’t stop them from having a brief liaison. Her AA sessions are not for him.
Whip also resists the help of attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), a stiffly humorless man who’s obviously good at his job, as he paves the way for his client to get off if he behaves himself. That, then, becomes the major question as approaches a big public hearing before the chief inquisitor (Melissa Leo), along with whether Whip can cut through his layers of self-protection and denial to finally confront his devils and the truth about himself.
The close scrutiny to Whip’s internal currents cuts two ways, on the one hand investing the drama with a deeply explored and complex central character, on the other weighing it down a bit too much with familiar addiction issues for which the possible answers are ultimately limited and clear-cut. The script commendably advances the notion that Whip had the cojones to make his bold move to save the plane because he was high but then perhaps prolongs the search for exactly how he’ll have to pay the price. At 139 minutes, the film takes a bit longer than necessary to do what it needs to do.
But Washington keeps it alive and real at all times as a man who, a failed marriage and an estranged son aside, would seem to have had things his own way most of his life and has never been forced to take a clear-eyed look at himself. The actors hits notes that are tricky and nuanced and that he’s never played before, contributing to a large, layered performance that defines the film.
(Sherlock Holmes), Greenwood, Goodman and Cheadle are all solid in functional supporting roles. As a live-action director, Zemeckis hasn’t lost a step during his long layoff; even though most of the settings are prosaic and even unphotogenic—hotel and hospital rooms, downscale dwellings, conference rooms—he and cinematographer Don Burgess deliver bold, well conceived images that flatter the actors. The exceptional and seamless visual effects for the traumatic flight sequence make that experience linger and reverberate throughout the entire film, just as it does for the characters who lived through them.October 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm #71733
Another fantastic review, this one from Variety.
By Peter Debruge
A Paramount release and presentation of an Imagemovers, Parkes/MacDonald production. Produced by Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke. Executive producer, Cherylanne Martin. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Screenplay, John Gatins.
Whip Whitaker – Denzel Washington
Hugh Lang – Don Cheadle
Nicole – Kelly Reilly
Harling Mays – John Goodman
Charlie Anderson – Bruce Greenwood
Ken Evans – Brian Geraghty
Margaret Thomason – Tamar Tunie
Audiences buckle up for one kind of movie but end up strapped in for another in “Flight,” director Robert Zemeckis’ welcome return to live-action after a dozen years away. Serious-minded drama steers a horrifying nightmare at 20,000 feet into one man’s turbulent personal struggle with his drinking problem — and not in the jokey “Airplane!” sense, either. Denzel Washington is aces as a commercial airline pilot who pulls off a miraculous mid-air stunt while flying with a 0.24 blood alcohol concentration, only to face his demons on the ground. Pic should soar on all platforms — except in-flight, of course.
For most alcoholics, crash-landing a jetliner would qualify as rock bottom — reason enough to quit drinking and seek help. In the case of Capt. Whip Whitaker (Washington), however, it’s just the beginning of a battle in which his greatest adversary is himself. Though technically an ensemble piece, “Flight” is as much a one-man showcase as Zemeckis’ “Cast Away” was for Tom Hanks.
Back in the land of the living, after a run of performance-capture pictures including “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf,” the helmer has embraced a project that depends entirely on the power of the human face — an assignment for which Washington is the perfect co-pilot. Internalizing the angry flame he typically displays onscreen, the star undercuts his own trademark swagger with the suggestion that, for some, such cocky behavior could mask far deeper problems.
Whitaker is flying high, sleeping with a comely stewardess (Nadine Velazquez) and chasing away his morning hangovers with a line of cocaine before stepping into the cockpit, until a mechanical malfunction sends his plane into a nosedive. Judging by the cool and collected way Whitaker handles the situation, he could be the poster boy for high-functioning alcoholism. Attempting to re-create the same scenario on a simulator after the fact, no other pilot could pull off the same maneuver. And yet, had Whitaker not literally been asleep at the wheel when the plane pitched forward, maybe the entire situation could have been avoided, sparing the six lives lost in his stunning recovery move.
Few events are more visceral to experience onscreen than an airplane crash, and “Flight” ranks alongside “Fearless” and “Alive” in the sheer intensity of its opening act. But John Gatins’ perceptively original script takes the rest of the story in a far different direction. For the first week or so, Whitaker vows to get sober, raiding every hiding place in his grandfather’s Georgia cabin for stashed liquor bottles and pouring them down the drain. It’s a symbolic gesture, but one that ultimately represents little more than wasted money for a man so hooked on hooch that within a few scenes, he’s sucking down Stoli vodka straight from its half-gallon jug (while driving, no less).
Enter a number of concerned supporting characters — figures essential to Whitaker’s journey and yet dwarfed by the dominant attention Zemeckis pays his deeply conflicted protag, through whose eyes we experience all but an early digressive scene setting up Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a lovely yet self-destructive masseuse. Nicole stands the best chance of getting through to Whitaker, though her efforts could backfire, as one more O.D. would certainly be fatal. It doesn’t help that Whitaker’s dealer (John Goodman, channeling “The Big Lebowski’s” laid-back Dude) repeatedly swoops in with fresh supplies.
Whitaker’s near-constant, never-glamorous state of intoxication has long since alienated him from his ex-wife (Garcelle Beauvais) and estranged son (Justin Martin, who leaves a strong impression in two scenes). The only other friend in his corner is old service buddy Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), now a rep for the pilots’ union, who’s put in the tricky position of wanting to remain loyal to Whitaker even as blood tests reveal criminal levels of intoxication.
While Whitaker works through his personal issues, an imposing investigation into the crash looms. As corrupt back-room negotiations build to a hearing, overseen by a no-nonsense Melissa Leo, in which Whitaker can all too easily lie his way off the hook — assuming his newfound sobriety doesn’t backfire, assuming he can stay sober long enough to get through it. (Looks like he picked the wrong week to stop drinking.)
The procedural mechanics matter less to Zemeckis than what Whitaker is experiencing at any given moment, evidenced by the way Don Burgess’ elegant live-action lensing never feels detached from the character. By this point in the story, even those who’ve fully identified with Washington’s prickly yet impressively accessible performance can’t help but view him as some kind of monster, albeit a tragic one. Everything, from the tormented look in Washington’s eyes to the empathetic strains of Alan Silvestri’s score, begs for Whitaker to redeem himself in that moment, and yet, Gatins has written such a captivatingly compromised antihero, this final moment of truth plays as gripping as the airplane disaster that started things off.October 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm #71734
It’s been TOO LONG since Zemeckis’ last live-action film and Denzel is in my top 5 favorite living actors. High hopes for this.October 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm #71735
YEEEEESSS Love me some Denzel! Definitely one of the greatest and most sexiest working actors of today.October 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm #71736
glad this film has been having great reviews, would be great to have Denzel in the best actor line upOctober 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm #71737
I am so thrilled at the positive early reviews this film is receiving. I’ve been waiting for Denzel Washington to have another vehicle worthy of taking him back to the Oscars, and it looks like he’s found it. Good to see Zemeckis back in (live) action as well.October 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm #71738
This is wonderful. We have actors now who have won twice before, in the mix for a third!
and those ‘outside’ chances
And actors who could challenge for their second
Even if they dont win, but get at least a nomination, the idea of confounding those communist, ‘spread the wealth’ crystal ball gazing fools a headache makes me smile.
Could open the door a tad wider for a first timer though.October 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm #71739
BumpOctober 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm #71740
In brief – I think Robert Zemeckis ranks at the top tier of directors at work today (among Americans Eastwood until recently, Cameron, Bigelow, Fincher) – for me, his body of work ranks ahead of Spielberg, Scorsese, and more so the Coens, Woody Allen, Ang Lee and so on. It’s great that he is back at the top of his game with Flight.
This is going to be a huge hit, which could propel its long-shot chances of winning BP. But it is the first really plausible winner I’ve seen (though unlikely, although it would surprise me if there is a better contender).
Having all the hallmarks of Zemeckis’ best work – entertaining, state of the art craftmanship, and a personal vision within the story that most will miss because it’s not middle-brow serious like most contenders – it is immensely satisfying on multiple levels.
I doubt there will be a better ensemble cast this year. It is Denzel Washington’s greatest performance (and a great one period). John Goodman has two great scenes, but mainly this will serve to enhance his chances of winning for Argo. Don Cheadle is solid and along with Kelly Reilly could easily be supporting nominees. Director, script, editing, art direction, both sounds, music, special effects all possible nominations.
Unfortunately, it won’t get the level of reviews it deserves – Zemeckis never does. He’s too good for most critics, and Flight overall is probably too good to win BP.
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