Monday, November 5, 2012

MOVIE OF THE WEEK/OSCAR WATCH: Flight


As the fall/winter season chugs along, the hits keep rolling in. Adding to the already sizable list of outstanding films this year is "Flight". In Robert Zemeckis' return to live-action filmmaking, we get a fascinating investigation of a deeply flawed man. The film tells the story of an alcoholic/drug addict pilot(Whip Whitaker) who successfully crash lands a faulty plane, saving almost all of its passengers.
Following this early incident, the film follows the aftermath of his heroic accomplishment, juxtaposed with the negative consequences of his toxicology report. From the first scene, you know this will be a bruising character portrayal. We meet Whitaker waking up from a booze and drug-filled night with a flight attendant. As if to prevent any initial sympathy, Whitaker rolls over, finishes his beer and snorts another line. It's a perfect setup for the rest of the film, firmly establishing that this man has a serious problem. Whitaker heads to work hungover and high, unprepared for the life-changing event that is about to happen. This plane crash is one of the best parts of the film, as it's a visceral sight to behold. It really captures the terror of impending doom. Many films would struggle to thrive after such an exhilarating opening, but this film has a lot more to say.
As we follow the aftermath, the film proves to be a penetrating exploration of various themes. It addresses issues of faith, morality and most of all, addiction. All of these are filtered through a remarkable character study of Whip Whitaker. The film features a fantastic ensemble (notably John Goodman, Kelly Reilly and Don Cheadle), all of whom are quite outstanding during their individual moments. In the end though, Denzel is the only one you really remember (and maybe John Goodman). His is a meaty role and he slips into it like a glove. He calls on all the tools in his acting arsenal to craft the unbalanced persona of this damaged individual. It's quite a challenge, as this isn't a rosy process of rehabilitation. Despite the extreme trauma of the plane crash, Whitaker doesn't immediately turn around his life. It's quite a risky move, as it can be quite jarring for the audience. Whitaker is abrasive and unapologetic about his addictions. For a director who is known for making pleasant films with likable lead characters, I was quite impressed by this uncompromising decision. You keep wanting the script to clean up this man, but there's no hand holding here. With Washington's honest interpretation though, the viewer is completely drawn in, keenly anticipating his character's resolution. Although his actions are despicable, you completely understand his inner turmoil and coping methods. Once you accept the severity of his problems, the performance just washes over you. It’s the Denzel Washington show and you either go with it or you don't.

As you can probably tell, I was bowled over by Denzel Washington's performance. I therefore think he’s a definite contender for Best Actor. I truly think it would be a travesty if he isn't nominated. The film could also be in the mix for Best Original Screenplay with its superb narrative, shining with some potent moments throughout the plot. I will admit however, that the writing between these points is a bit iffy, so the nomination isn't quite secure. Furthermore, I feel like the storyline for Kelly Reilly’s character was just filler. The main focus will be on Denzel's campaign, but there could be some room for John Goodman in the Supporting Actor race. He milks every second of his brief screen time to full effect, lightening up the heavy material. Finally, I was certainly impressed with Robert Zemeckis' direction and the final product, so I will also give consideration to possible Best Director and Best Picture nominations. It's already a competitive year, so those last 2 will be hard to come by. Overall, it's a solid collaboration of artists who crafted this showcase for their leading man. Welcome back to the spotlight Denzel.

9 comments:

  1. Good review. It's a great performance from Denzel that shows just exactly why he is one of the better actors working today. As for the rest of the film, it's not as great or engaging as him but still very good.

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    1. Thanks. I'm so glad he's still able to do strong work.

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  2. You had me on "John Goodman and Don Cheadle." :-) Excellent review! I love the way you described the themes, character development, and performances. I'm adding this to my list.

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    1. It's certainly got some great actors! I was quite surprised by how dark the film was. Definitely worth a look.

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  3. Nice review here. Man, I sincerely hope it pulls off all of the Oscar nominations you predicted. It certainly deserves to. But I think you're right - Picture and Director will be a stretch. Just give me actor.

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    1. Thanks. Time will tell with the Oscar buzz. I feel pretty confident about Best Actor and I think the strong critic and audience reception could push it into other categories.

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  4. Good review! I wish I could agree with everything you said. I only thought Denzel was good, not great, and I felt like the movie needed a GREAT performance to be worthwhile. Still, it's always good to see Denzel doing his thing and nice to have Zemeckis back in the land of the living instead of the motion capture business.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Brian. It really is good to see Zemeckis back in something more in his comfort zone.

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