Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Going Down

Flight       Final Cut Score: 74%

What is it with Robert Zemeckis and plane crashes? The last time the Oscar winner helmed a camera that featured cellular actors in front, a FedEx jet plowed into the Pacific, leaving Tom Hanks to yak it up with a blood-stained volleyball.

And now, some 12 years on, Zemeckis brings down another aircraft with Flight, a film that mimics the departure it depicts by plunging into a melodramatic nosedive that even an outstanding Denzel Washington can't save.

Washington is Captain William "Whip" Whitaker, a cocaine-snorting, alcohol-swigging mess of a human being who just so happens to be one hell of a pilot. How much so? As you've undoubtedly seen in the film's trailer, the guy can fly a plane belly up, cockpit down. It's Flight's signature scene and one of the most harrowing you'll ever see on-screen. Zemeckis should have ended the film there, a 30-minute thrill ride that left me utterly exhausted. The installation of seat belts should be mandatory.

But Zemeckis and writer John Gatins (Real Steel) pile a vat of drug-laced Cheese Whiz on top, including a subplot involving a fellow substance abuser, Nicole (Kelly Reilly of Sherlock Holmes fame) and her attempts to get Whitaker sober after his Sully-esque crash landing. The sidestep is made that much more wonky by Zemeckis' decision to intersperse Nicole's back story with Whitaker's fateful flight from the get go. It doesn't work, unless you equate jarring with success.

At a runtime of two hours and 18 minutes, the film is akin to a transatlantic flight with a layover in Bermuda. If not for the performances of  Washington, a stellar Don Cheadle and John Goodman as a dope-dealing hippie, Flight would be interminable.

My recommendation: Grab a seat for the first 30 minutes and then hit the eject button. The only thing Zemeckis could have done to make Flight more of a chore to sit through beyond its stunning opening sequence, have a kid kick your seat-back for the protracted remainder of the flick.