Flight is the first live action film that director Robert Zemeckis has made since Cast away which was released in 2000 and what a return it is. Zemeckis has become well known for making films that push boundaries in special effects. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) combined live action with animation, Forrest Gump (1994) utilized techniques that made it possible for the protagonist to meet and greet famous deceased figures and in The Polar Express (2004) the characters were animated by using performance capture. Given his track record I had high hopes for Flight and I am delighted to say they were surpassed, phew!
The story follows William “Whip” Whitaker a sleazy, alcoholic pilot played by Denzel Washington who puts in a superb performance. In my opinion I have always believed that Washington is at his peak when portraying antiheros and for me this is his best role since Training day (2001). Whip wakes up in a hotel room after a night that is best described as a hedonist’s ultimate fantasy featuring plenty of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Whip continues to sniff cocaine and discreetly mixes vodka into his juice whilst flying. Disaster strikes in what seems to be beyond Whips control as the plane begins to fall apart and steep dives. Acting as if on instinct Whip rolls the plane upside down to counter the dive and manoeuvres it back to the right way before he crashes it. The sequence of the film involving the plane crash was spectacular and if ever the term ‘on the edge of your seat’ was only applicable to one film this would be a contender. While Whip recovers from his sustained injuries he is then informed that while he was unconscious a blood test was performed that reveals he was intoxicated. The plot then revolves around Whip trying to keep his alcoholism a secret, clear his name and stay out of prison.
Flight also marks a return for Zemeckis to make films that feature adult themes and my goodness does he indulge in it. One of the more intense scenes involves a character injecting themselves with heroin which in my view is quite difficult to watch. Also during the hotel scene there is a large amount of nudity onscreen, and the camera perhaps focuses just a little too much on the naked body of Nadine Velazquez, granted this isn’t a criticism of mine and I imagine most men enjoyed this part, it’s merely a casual observation I had.
What I really enjoyed about Flight though was the theme of redemption, with many subtle nods to Christ. In my own view I didn’t feel that Whip was a likable character nor was he meant to be. I have read other reviews that say this film is formulaic and contrived and I must say I don’t agree I think this is a very smart film for Hollywood. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and it’s one that I really do recommend.