It started strong. The first hour of Flight is captivating, tense and thought-provoking. Denzel Washington is in top form and the flight sequences are nail-bitingly good. Unfortunately, the film never seems to find the “story” it wants to tell. It is nice to see Director Robert Zemeckis back in live-action and he still has some serious skills creating human drama, but I was never totally invested in this one as I was with some of his other films which I love–like Cast Away and Contact.
There were several narrative options it could have taken: A straight-up drama about airline politics (especially after a crash)–a truthful look into an alcoholic’s struggle with sobriety–a character study that explored the dichotomy of our society’s definitions of hero and villain or even a love story of two broken souls seeking a bit of solace. Any of those would have interested me and with each possible idea I would get excited…but, none of those paths were taken. Instead, we get an uneven, over-long spiral into self-destruction that never quite gripped me–emotionally or intellectually. You are left with a series of dramatic moments that are never earned, therefore you are not impacted by them.
The performances are the reason to go see this. Washington is easily one of our finest actors and this is a meaty role for him (I am sure there will be some Oscar buzz). John Goodman is a much-needed breath of fresh (comical) air, anytime he is on-screen. Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood are solid, as always. The knock out performance though, belongs to Kelly Reilly, as an unexpected love interest. She is vulnerable and broken and yet, strong and full of hope. I am looking forward to see Ms. Reilly in more.
Overall, I can say Flight is a bad film…it has enough to be okay–but it could have been more. If only…