Flight Blu-ray Review
There are few instances in life where you are completely helpless and are totally dependent on others. One of those times is when you are on an airplane. You count on the pilot to have his faculties and the plane to be operational. FLIGHT gives a terrifying scenario where both of those things are not right. This is a grand return to live-action filmmaking for director Robert Zemeckis. The movie can best be described as a character study of two very damaged people trying to find their way in the world with a plane crash thrown in.
Denzel Washington plays pilot Whip Whitaker. We first see him waking up from a drunken haze after a tryst with one of his flight attendants. Whip had a bad divorce from his wife and doesn’t have a relationship with his teenage son. The guy is a wreck in every sense of the word. You get the feeling that he thinks he’s got it all together. Whip strides through the airport like he can walk on water and nothing can stop him. It is no matter that he’s drunk and stoned. His skill as a pilot has made him invincible in his eyes that no problem is too big up in the air. Zemeckis’s invaluable experience as a pilot makes these scenes believable. Whip’s co-pilot knows there is something up with Whip, but he doesn’t press it. There is a definite hierarchy that is followed on airplanes. The pilot is the boss and everyone just has to have the confidence in his ability to maneuver this large piece of steel at hundreds of miles an hour through good and bad weather. It is not surprising to me when pilots are caught drunk because of the massive pressure that is on these people. The responsibility of the flight crew and the passengers is all on them.
These beginning flight scenes are terrifying to any person who has flown before. It is your worst nightmare. First Whip has to handle bad weather which he does a risky maneuver to get through. After this crisis is averted, another one pops up that causes the plane to take a nose dive. This is bare knuckle material expertly done by Zemeckis. When the plane gets inverted, you probably are thinking that isn’t realistic. Apparently that is possible, but it isn’t exactly taught in flight school.
Screenwriter John Gatins really makes his mark after all the fireworks of the crash. This is where the fascinating character study comes to play. Whip wakes up in the hospital and learns that six people have died in the crash. His culpability for the crash is questioned because the toxicology report showed that he was intoxicated while piloting the plane. One of the best scenes of the movie takes place in the stairway at the hospital. Whip is shaken up by the experience and wants to sneak a smoke. He meets a cancer patient and a woman who nearly died from a drug overdose. It is a quiet scene that shows how fragile life can be. Here’s a guy who is fighting to stay alive coming into contact with two people who are careless with their choices. It is telling and startling in its realism.
Kate (a terrific Kelly Reilly), the woman in the stairway, starts a relationship with Whip. At first she allows him to go deeper into his alcohol dependence. It is easier to go along with instead of confronting the ugly truth. She then realizes that this is a mistake. Another good moment of the film occurs at an AA meeting. An interesting side note to this scene was that it wasn’t in the original script. It was added later on. I couldn’t imagine the movie without it. It has a guy speaking about all the lies he told while he was drinking. The lies are second nature to him. The camera slowly focuses on Whip and these words start to soak in. It is an uncomfortable mirror held up to the way he is living. This causes Whip to leave. Gatins had a past addiction problem, so this might have had an autobiographical feel to him that he threw in.
The supporting characters in FLIGHT are all top notch. Bruce Greenwood does fine work as an old friend of Whip and the current president of the airline’s pilots union. He tries to help him in the serious situation he is in. One of the things he does is that he hires an attorney (Don Cheadle), who will try to throw out the toxicology report and craft a viable defense before the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board). John Goodman provides much needed comic relief as Whip’s drug dealer.
This may be one of Washington’s best performances as an actor. That is saying a lot since he has done so much fine work. Throughout FLIGHT, Whip is not a likable character. He’s a drunk who doesn’t want to take responsibility for anything he does. He is unrepentant and seemingly unwilling to change his ways. Many actors would not want to take on a role where the audience doesn’t like you much of the time you are on the screen. It is a brave and fearless performance that garnered Washington a well deserved Oscar nomination. He likely won’t win (Daniel Day-Lewis has that in the bag), but it shouldn’t be forgotten.
Clarity is a major theme that permeates FLIGHT. Kate has to decide if she wants to do drugs anymore. Whip’s attorney has to decide how far he is willing to go to defend Whip. That is also true for Whip’s good friend. And Whip has to decide if he is willing to sullen a dead friend’s reputation to save himself. All of them come to the point of clarity and see what they want to do. This is one therapeutic movie when you look at it that way. Everyone can relate to choices that you make in life and the consequences that come with them.
Hopefully Robert Zemeckis doesn’t take another decade before making another live-action film. FLIGHT is a testament to his talent and the extraordinary talent he got to work with.
Video: The visuals were stunning and really came alive on screen.
Audio: The best sounding Blu-ray I’ve heard in quite some time. You really felt like you were on that plane and you were going to crash. Top notch.
Origins of Flight (10:29): Screenwriter John Gatins describes the gestation of the script which was born over a decade ago. His fascination with pilots and his experience with addiction made it a perfect marriage of the two. Director Robert Zemeckis is a pilot, so that drew him to the story.
The Making of Flight (11:31): Filmmakers and actors discuss the film. It took 35 days to shoot. The use of simulators was helpful for the actors in the flight scenes.
Anatomy of a Plane Crash (7:46): My favorite feature. There was so much preparation that went into the early scenes. Computer animation was used, so Zemeckis could see where he would want his camera. This was quite educational and fascinating.
Q & A Highlights (14:18): The director, screenwriter and many of the actors were on hand to take questions. Denzel Washington was absent because of sickness.