Thursday, December 6, 2012

Movie with Abe: Flight

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Released November 2, 2012

Denzel Washington is an actor with many talents. Early roles like a determined soldier in “Glory” gained him acclaim, and he later played against type and took home his second Oscar for his villainous turn as a corrupt cop in “Training Day.” Throughout the past decade, he has populated his film choices mostly with action blockbusters, in which he carries a gun and boasts an intimidating presence. Now, he returns in a drama that boasts his strongest and most focused performance in a long time, as an alcoholic pilot forced to confront his addiction after an astonishing feat on the job puts him in the spotlight.

Washington’s Whip quickly demonstrates his likeability, downing excessive amounts of alcohol within the film’s first few minutes but charming every person with whom he comes into contact. He reveals his winning deviousness by stepping out of the cockpit to speak directly to the passengers, using the opportunity to sneak plenty of vodka into his orange juice mid-flight. Watching him roar through severe weather with the utmost confidence and then stay perfectly calm in the midst of chaos when the plane’s systems begin to malfunction is astonishing, and his handling of the situation is mesmerizing. That fearless start makes it even more powerful to see Whip spiral out of control in the aftermath of the crash.

The plane ride that serves as the film’s first act is inarguably one of the year’s most terrific action sequences. The nail-biting, breathless extended scene sets the stage for a more passive yet equally involving story for the remainder of the film, which finds Whip undone by himself rather than by forces of nature. The film’s title refers both to the initial flight and to Whip’s attachment to the idea of flying, something he loves and something that he knows he does extremely well. Ultimately, the film is about Whip and his being forced to confront his demons, balancing early action with later drama.

This is Washington’s first real shot at an Oscar nomination since his win for “Training Day,” his similar role in “American Gangster” exempted, and he deserves his buzz. He walks with a confident swagger and speaks like he has nothing to lose, and that makes his unraveling all the more potent. Kelly Reilly adds considerable depth to the film as fellow addict Nicole, who comes into Whip’s life just as she is getting a hold on her own addiction. A competent ensemble, including Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, Tamara Tunie, John Goodman, and James Badge Dale in a memorable one-scene part, help to make this one of the year’s most effective and surprising dramas.


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