Film Review: “Flight” (Denzel Washington)

“Flight” is a film working 2009’s “Miracle on the Hudson” with some moralistic quirks showcasing Denzel Washington’s dramatic flair. It melds two diverse story lines together, one more interesting than the other.

The first explores the proposition that genius resists impairment.  Pilot Whip Whitaker is so good that even impaired by drugs and alcohol, he can creatively control the most unhinged situations better than the next sober guy. A proposition that has been debunked by meticulous practical performance studies.  Musicians and artists similarly opine that drugs augment their creativity, a notion that many such creative persons paid with their lives to debunk in the 60s and 70s.

The second story line is a simple a morality play about the evils of strong drink and drugs, done better many times in film.  “Days of Wine & Roses (Jack Lemmon, 1962),  “Lost weekend” (Ray Milland, 1945), among many others.

However, the combination of these two plots cancel each other out like matter and anti-matter yielding a tale of self-destruction and eventual redemption that descends into preachy melodrama and a thinly veiled promotion for a 12-step-program.  A superman that can come to life from a big league hangover to save the day under incredibly complex conditions but subsequently descends into the rehab resistant dregs of substance abuse? A bit of a stretch.

Serviceably directed by Robert Zemeckis, the action shots of the aircraft maneuvers are well done. Thereafter, Denzel Washington is good, but not that good. I’ve seen him better (Inside Man, 2006).  Don Cheadle applies an understated performance. The love interest angle is implausible and goes nowhere.

Best scenes:  The in-flight disaster avoidance maneuvers. James Badge Dale (The Grey, 2011) cameos as a rambling, out-of-context cancer patient. He steals the show in three minutes.

No so best scene: Gassed to the eyeballs Whip Whitaker countering a hangover with stimulant drugs.

Biggest scene stealer:  John Goodman.

Mediocre film punctuated with some isolated interesting scenes. My recommendation:  Wait till it comes out on Cable.

I give it 3 of 5 upside down passenger jets.

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