Denzel Washington puts in an exciting and mesmerising performance in “Flight”, but be warned. The less you know about pilots, flying and air traffic control, the happier you will be when you see this movie.
If you understand any detail at all – say you have a friend or relative who flies and you listen a bit – you will find yourself muttering “that’s not possible”. You will have one glorious moment when you will see the prettiest little Cessna 172, but that’s it for lovers of flying who know a bit.
Unless. of course, you love to sneer and feel superior and you are a pilot. Then, you’ll enjoy being smug. Try not to say tisk or speak out loud.
Ignorance truly is bliss as everyone at the Stratford Picturehouse plainly adored it. There were no signs of the doubts I felt as I wriggled.
There’s an incredibly thrilling first 30 minutes which ends when the ill-fated “routine, short hop” flight crashes. Basically, Denzel wouldn’t be here and Robert Zemeckis wouldn’t be directing if this was about anything routine, would they?
Just so you know, this is probably based on the Alaskan Airlines crash of 1980, when the pilot rolled the plance to try and land safely. Everyone on board that flight died.
As a slight spoiler, Denzel does not die.
Indeed, he’s a hero until his blood alcohol levels show he was drunk while flying.
We then go all psychological with an awful lot of stuff about addiction and treatment and trial and – possible redemption?
Much of the rest of the film reminded me irresistibly of “The Lost Weekend” and Ray Milland’s Oscar-winning role as an alcoholic.
Except that John Goodman puts in a role that screams “drugs and alcohol are cool” as he hands out illegal substances. The effect is rather like Hunter S Thompson wandering into “The Lost Weekend” and undermines the sobriety message as John’s having tons more fun that everyone else here all put together.
Cynically, one might think that Robert Zemeckis has been stung by the criticism that he makes action movies without much substance and wants to fix that by making a really deep film.
Kelly Reilly has several beautiful scenes as an addict determined to stop using drugs. Don Cheadle is superb as a lawyer advising Denzel. Tamara Tunie is also terrific and I will look out for her in other movies.
And Melissa Leo is so good that I didn’t spot it was her until the closing credits. Bet you won’t either.
Still, everything here is about Denzel. I am left a little puzzled. If the message is meant to be about the horrors of alcoholism and drug abuse, why are all the fun scenes and characters absolutely addled by booze? There are mixed messages here and they may leave you needing a stiff drink.