Wednesday, November 7, 2012

FLIGHT (2012)

Rated: R

Stars: Denzel Washington,  Kelly Reilly,  John Goodman,  Don Cheadle
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Thriller/Drama

There are the fortunate, and there are the unfortunate turns we take in life. There are fortunate and unfortunate turns in a film script as well--which can transform a movie into something truly special, or just standard run-of-the-mill fare. If you don't think too much about the unfortunate turn that you can see coming from a mile away (at least I could) in Flight, the latest Denzel Washington vehicle, it can be a pretty enjoyable ride on the way to its crash landing.

Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is this  hotshot commercial pilot who flies a crippled airliner upside down in a hellacious storm and lands it in a cow pasture with nearly all the souls on board surviving to tell about it.  But Whip has a dirty little secret. He's a drunk. (Think Captain Sullenberger on the sauce.) He was ripped when he boarded the aircraft, and he surreptitiously  imbibed during the flight. His boozing didn't cause the plane's troubles--that was due to mechanical failure--but rules are rules and laws are laws, and after some edge-of-your-seat excitement at the beginning that puts us right in the cockpit as the aircraft pitches, tosses and turns, (and we get ready to toss our cookies) Flight becomes a tale of a man fleeing his own conscience, as he tries to keep his in-flight indiscretions from being discovered during an upcoming NTSB hearing.  There to assist him in the cover-up are his lawyer, (Don Cheadle) an old friend and pilot's union rep, (Bruce Greenwood) and his drug connection, (John Goodman)  whose job is to bring Whitaker out of his binge induced stupors with an occasional toot of cocaine. 

There is a subplot involving a young addict (Kelly Reilly) who is there--near as I can tell--to provide some eye candy and female presence in what is otherwise a  male dominated cast.   

John Goodman absolutely steals (or hijacks) this movie, and it is worth the price of admission just to ingest his bodacious, wickedly funny portrayal of dope dealer Harling Mays, for whom it's all in a day's work.            

It's a good thing too, because the climax of  this film is as moralistic and predictable as any network TV cop or detective show. In making that turn for home, the movie takes the road usually traveled. There are more imaginative alternate endings that even I came up with in my wee little brain that would have given us more food for thought than the peanuts we were served on this Flight.

Grade:  B -