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Flight

By Kathryn Schroeder
Released: November 2, 2012
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Synopsis
In this action-packed mystery thriller, Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, a seasoned airline pilot, who miraculously crash lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving nearly every soul on board.  After the crash, Whip is hailed as a hero, but as more is learned, more questions than answers arise as to who or what was really at fault and what really happened on that plane?
Film Review
Production
The fear of flying, perpetuated simply by the knowledge that you may fall out of the sky, losing all control over your life. That control is in the hands of the flight crew, the pilot, and the computers that run airplanes in the modern-age. When a plane crash is avoided, the passengers brought safely to the ground with little to no life lost, the pilot is heralded as a hero; applauded and saluted for his bravery and achievement. This is what happens to Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) in Flight after he lands a plane with some very crazy stunt maneuvering that shocks his co-pilot and the flight crew as well. The scene is intense, as Whitaker inverts the plane and then spins it around to land safely on the ground. Whip Whitaker is a hero, until the real Whip Whitaker is revealed and the events of the night prior to and the morning of are made public. The hero status he possesses is present always, as he did what no other pilot could have to land the plane, but it is overshadowed by the risk he took even entering the plane that morning to fly.

As a viewer you know all about Whip Whitaker's habits from the first minutes of the film. He's a drunk, a drug user, and he's having an affair with one of his flight crew, the beautiful Katerina Marquez (Nadine Velazquez)--a woman much younger than he, giving him instant points to the men in the audience as she saunters around the room in her skimpy underwear and nothing else. You know Whip reports to work in his poor condition and a feeling of dread overwhelms you. The plane crash is not a mystery, kept secret from trailers or synopsis', and so you wonder, "is it his fault because he's inebriated?" The answer to that question will be raised and answered in the movie, but its not the important part of the story. The journey following Whip, his struggle with addiction, the violent tendencies, blackouts from alcohol, lies to everyone around him, denials, and a love affair with former addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly) take up the bulk of the story. Whip's impending trial, and relationship with attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), is always looming, but the movie has a tendency to switch tones drastically. The change is similar to the habits of an addict. One day Whip is clean and sober, happy and laughing, loving and tender. The next he is angry, full of spite, and dug deep down in a dark pit of sorrow and sadness. The rapidly changing mood of the film makes for quite the emotional roller coaster, but it also ensures that you never decide whether Whip is a hero or a monster, of sorts. You aren't meant to like him, you merely need to hear his story in order to understand that with heroics do not assume perfection.

Flight is very much a catch-22 of a movie; had Whip not flown that morning drunk and high the passengers would have all died but Whip should never have reported to work in the condition he was in because he was putting all of the lives of the passengers and crew in danger. Flight is a complicated story, and there is no right or wrong conclusion at the end--only a fulfilled feeling that you have watched a thrilling movie, full of twists and turns, exceptional performances, and ripe with dark emotion.
Score/Soundtrack
A deeply dramatic, and emotionally traumatic film like Flight would seem to be a perfect candidate for a fantastical score to draw out emotions and empathy from the viewer. The original score was composed by Alan Silvestri (The Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger), but it is the soundtrack, compiled of a variety of well-known songs from the past that gives Flight's consistently changing tempestuous tone a benefiting spark of life; and an unforgettable dose of humor on more than one occasion.

Flight opens on Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) waking up from one hell of a hangover, which he of course attempts to cure with a beer, cigarette, and a line of coke. The song playing, as he gets up, dresses, and makes his way to work...Joe Cocker's "Feelin Alright"--a song befitting his state. Just as swiftly we meet Nicole, the junkie, as she shoots up with the unforgiving song "Sweet Jane" by The Cowboy Junkies. The choices may be obvious, and a little too much "here, this is what I want you to feel right now or get from this scene," but the honest truth is that, just like the Forest Gump soundtrack, Flight's is full of great music, in or out of context. Additional song choices include The Rolling Stones "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Gimme Shelter," but to reveal where they take place would remove the humor found when the songs chime in as the action unfolds. Robert Zemeckis loves music, and his films are always full of classic songs that immediately strike a chord with the audience; Flight is no exception.
Directing
Robert Zemeckis, an auteur status director of award-winning films such as Castaway and Forest Gump, and iconic ones like Back to the Future, has come out of retirement with Flight, so to speak. For over a decade Zemeckis has only made motion capture computer-animated films (The Polar Express, Beowulf); a technique he once referred to as the future of motion pictures. The lack of success of this type of film has proven otherwise, but Zemeckis' skills behind the camera have not depleted during his over-a-decade hiatus from live-action filmmaking. Quite the contrary actually, Flight is an impeccably crafted film that meanders through a variety of tones and themes as the viewer is swept up into a whirlwind, never quite understanding where to set their emotional ties or how to reconcile the actions of the would-be hero, Denzel Washington's Whip Whitaker.

It is under Robert Zemickis' direction that Flight is able to sustain the attention of a viewer while it changes its pacing, character motivations, and delves from heroic tale to fallen anti-hero dark drama over the course of the story. Denzel Washington's performance is of course the backbone of the entire movie, and Zemeckis utilizes his talents to the fullest. Doing away with the star persona that is Denzel Washington and helping him to purely become the character of Whip Whitaker; a feat not easily done when working with an actor who has carved out a career playing very similar parts in the movies he chooses. The team of Washington and Zemeckis proves to be just what each one of them needed: Zemeckis an actor whom can deliver a performance to make his return to live-action filmmaking momentous, and for Washington a director who can draw out of him the range as an actor he does possess, as shown previously in American Gangster and Philadelphia.



Genre
Drama
Release Date
November 2, 2012
MPAA Rating
R
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