If you go to Paramount’s website, they describe their new film as an ‘action packed mystery thriller‘. Don’t let nonsense marketing play with your expectations – Flight is a straightforward drama with a pulsating crash landing setting its wheels in motion. The initial action pays off with a solemn character drama taking over the film’s substance. Obviously Paramount aren’t convinced audiences will flock to the cinema for something which is structurally unconventional, but they really should have more faith.
Denzel Washington received a Best Actor nomination for this role and it’s easy to see why. He stars as Whip Whitaker, a rogue, talented pilot with addiction problems who nevertheless manages the heroic feat of crash landing a faulty plane resulting in minimal causalities. The role of the flawed hero role could easily verge on cliché but Washington plays it with a low key authenticity. Whilst Whitaker’s ultimate fate is captivating, the question of whether or not he’s a sympathetic figure is the film’s major antagonism, a constantly engaging question despite the slow pacing.
There are moments when the film strays, most notably those involving the larger-than-life John Goodman who seems to be in a completely different movie. There’s one particular instance of substance abuse near the film’s ending which was extremely misjudged but such moments can be seen as blips during an otherwise riveting and satisfying journey of self-destruction. The initial crash landing is directed absorbingly and while its pacing might change, its grasp never lets go.
Review by David Rank
Flight is released on 1st February in the UK. Certificate 15 (UK). Running time 138 mins.
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