Robert Zemeckis’ latest film Flight starring Academy Award Winner Denzel Washington is not only thoroughly entertaining and terrifically structured, it encompasses a soul that Hollywood hasn’t really delivered in quite some time. The film, that closed the New York Film Festival, is simply one of the best films of the year.
Flight tells the story of Whip Whitaker, an airline pilot that saves a plane and nearly all its passengers from a certain death. When an investigation is carried out to look into the details of the crash, Whip’s troubling lifestyle begins to surface. Writer John Latins creates a dynamic and an internal narrative confrontation for viewers to become immersed in a story full of mental struggle. It’s a unique and very engaging story that stands as one of season’s best efforts.
Denzel Washington, and not to be taken lightly, is fully in the zone and portrays one of his finest screen moments in years. I haven’t been this impressed with his abilities as an actor since The Hurricane (1999). He lands solidly in Whip, giving us his natural aggression, charisma, and flaws. Allowing us to travel with Whip on this journey, Mr. Washington proves once and for all, he is one of the great treasures of American cinema. Denzel gives an access root into the character for all intended purposes, a clear understanding of the inner resistance that will not only plague Whip, but the movie audience as well.
The story doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for Robert Zemeckis, who has excelled in genres that have provided masterpieces like Forrest Gump (1994) and Cast Away (2000). As the film provides a more dark and jagged approach in his directorial style, Zemeckis executes with precision. It’s a satisfactory effort from the director who makes his return to live action after a long string of motion-capture efforts.
Assisting Washington’s bravura performance is Oscar-nominee Don Cheadle, who teamed up with Denzel in the 90’s classic film, Devil in a Blue Dress (1995). As the wise-cracking lawyer, whose own moral values may be tested in exchange for corporate and criminal immunity, Cheadle is a relieved presence. In a comedic and near-brilliant performance, John Goodman steals Flight from every actor including Washington in his short, two-scene appearances. Goodman continues to show an effortless range, even in poor film choices, and a confidence that makes him one of the great character actors working today. It’s a performance that Oscar should consider on multiple levels. In a heartbreaking turn, Kelly Reilly as the drug-addicted Nicole, provides an emotional epicenter and boundary that stands as one of Latins’ great writing achievements. Reilly is simply marvelous.
Continuing to beef up their acting resume, the great Bruce Greenwood shines while Brian Geraghty continues to prove he is one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets.
Composer Alan Silvestri orchestrates an outstanding score that is both melodic and soothing. Cinematographer Don Burgess, once-nominated for Forrest Gump, gives clean, fresh camera lenses look into a shockingly dirty and gritty story. Zemeckis’ handle of the astounding opening scenes, especially the plane crash, is one of the best visual and nail-biting moments of the year. Its Zemeckis at his best!
Flight is not only one of the best cinematic efforts of the New York Film Festival; it stands as a great surprise and entry into the 2012 Oscar season. Denzel Washington is completely Oscar-bound but the buck shouldn’t stop there; a deserved consideration campaign should be given to John Goodman and Kelly Reilly along with screenwriter John Latins. Flight is a home-run!
Check out the trailer: