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Flight – see if there’s hope for the hopeless

Paul Peterson

So there may very well be something in me that’s like biting on tin foil as my brother Phil has suggested, or maybe I just hate playing to type and doing the obvious. So, I’m not going to review Skyfall which did 88 million for its opening weekend. Besides, I have it on a good authority that it’s to sleep for. So we’ll scope that out for next week.
Instead, we’ll visit its next door neighbor Flight which could be called Skyfalling.
This is a really good movie. Now to get that classification you have to have great writing, acting and directing and this has it all.
The cast is rich, deep and complimentary but make no mistake this is Denzel Washington’s film. He will most definitely receive an Academy Award nomination and depending on which weird British film gets released late, starring some actor who’s face we marginally recognize, he might win. He’s that good.
His character Whip Whitaker, is a pilot who likes drink, drugs ladies and fly big commercial airlines, sometimes we’re led to believe,  at the same time.
The film opens with Whip in a hotel room hungover and trying to find something to hold onto as his life spins out of control. A very naked lady keeps him company and it gets a bit gratuitous as she wanders around. But we do get to see him drink and do a few lines of coke and get his pre-flight face on. There’s some remarkable photography that let’s us see just how bad his eyes are and his partying are legendary with the crew. No one seems to be too upset. Pilots will be pilots.
During what should be a routine flight, something happens and the plane takes a nose dive heading for its own ground zero and Whip saves the day, the plane and most of the passengers by flying that bad boy upside down.
The accident was nothing to do with him, but the lives saved definitely were. But once the investigation is in full bore, the results of his tox screen come out and there’s a world of hurt waiting for our slightly tarnished hero.
Here’s the thing. Washington almost always plays the everyman good guy and we like him. We, Sally Field, really, really like him. We even liked him in Training Day when he was this malevolent force of nasty as a morally bankrupt cop. I thought that role was too limited. He played a cartoon.
This is much more refined. Darker in parts with occasional hints of redemption. I like redemption. It makes me smile.
All of the characters in Whip’s world are flawed, which makes sense on some level. His lawyer one of my favorites. Don Cheadle, is so ethically challenged he could hide behind a corkscrew.
Nicole, the relationship we’re not sure is a relationship, is an overdose survivor he meets in the hospital during recovery.
We hope these crazy kids get together because those kinds of things always work out don’t they Roseanne? Tom Arnold? I’m just saying.
Writer John Gatins has given us a script with teeth, even if it is a bit uneven. Nicole fades to black and there’s a collective “Huh” from the audience. What was the point?
John Goodman steals the show with a small, but dynamic cameo as Whip’s drug dealer/party hound pal and there are other good small roles by Bruce Greenwood and others. Still, at the end of the day, it’s all about Denzel.
Director Robert Zemeckis uses the camera well and other than the rather exceptional opening half hour with the upside down plane relies on story rather than gimmick. For the man who helmed Forest Gump and Castaway it’s a welcome return to form.
He lets the camera hang on Whip’s slightly punished features just a little too long to get away with much.
Look, I live moral ambiguity. I have a summer home there so this descent into one man’s purgatory is rather fascinating.
See the film to find out if there is hope for the hopeless. See if he loses his job, his career, his presidency of the mile high club.
A little long at 140 minutes but I still think it’s a great watch and recommend it without reservation. Of course, I’m never flying again. Is there a bus to Barcelona? I have plans.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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