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By Jess Fenton
28th January 2013

Not since 2000’s ‘Cast Away’ has Robert Zemeckis directed a live action feature, choosing to favour the budding and impressive motion capture technology with the films ‘The Polar Express’, ‘Beowulf’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’. Now returning to his strengths, Zemeckis has set his eye on the skies with ‘Flight’. Some argued that Zemeckis turned to style over substance with his last three features, choosing to let the technology outshine the story and cast. With ‘Flight’, it would appear that without that style to fall back on this once great, revered and often envied storyteller has let those storytelling skills fall by the wayside.

Denzel Washington plays Captain Whip Whitaker, a commercial airline pilot with a serious substance abuse problem; alcohol being his primary poison of choice. One day, on what should have ben a routine flight, albeit after a night of heavy drinking and cocaine use, the plane experiences a series of freak mechanical failures, forcing Whip to perform some outrageous, unheard of and quite frankly, ballsy manoeuvres to prevent it from falling out of the sky. The plane eventually crash lands in a field next to a church, causing only six deaths out the 102 souls on board. While hailed an American hero by some, the investigation into the crash rushes into action, exposing Whip’s problems and leading to more lies than ever before. There's a very real and serious risk that Whip could go to prison - so to prevent that, he he has to accept, admit and ultimately seek help for his destructive disease.


This high concept film is gripping, especially with Washington’s elegant performance guiding the way. Where the film falls short is not in the story but the stroytelling itself. The character of Whip has no redemptive bone in his body, which is not only hard to watch but becomes a roadblock for audiences when trying to engage or emotionally attach to the character. At 138 minutes, the bulk of that time watching a man get drunk repeatedly is simply not good cinema. In terms of the crash investigation plot line - from the beginning, we’re aware that Whip wasn’t the cause of the crash, along with his hotshot lawyer (Don Cheadle) constantly telling us that his clients don’t go to jail. Zemeckis has instantly eliminated the stakes in what is supposed to be a high-stakes drama.

This high concept film is gripping, especially with Washington’s elegant performance guiding the way.

That aside, the plane crash sequence is one of the most impressive, realistic and therefore frightening cinema-going experiences on offer. The seamless GCI combined with a mixture of camera angles that place you right in the middle of the event alongside gut-wrenching performances by all involved, this is not a film for those with a fear of flying.

With a highly original story and terrific performances all around, this is not a bad film, but it certainly has its flaws. When Zemeckis chose to use gratuitous full frontal female nudity within the first 20 seconds of the film, you’re aware that cheap ploys to hook an audience are on the menu. While one should expect more and, quite frankly, better for this great director, glimpses of the old Zemeckis are evident somewhere within the chaos.

RELEASE DATE: 31/01/2013
RUN TIME: 2h 18m
CAST: Denzel Washington - Whip
Melissa Leo
John Goodman
Don Cheadle
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
WRITER: John Gatins
PRODUCERS: Laurie Macdonald
Walter F. Parkes
Jack Rapke
Steve Starkey
Robert Zemeckis
SCORE: Alan Silvestri
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