This is Washington’s movie from beginning to end, and full of little layers.
-Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger
One of Denzel Washington’s finest performances. And that’s really saying something, considering everything he has accomplished on screen.
-Clint O’Connor, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Flight is Robert Zemeckis’s first live action film in 12 years and he doesn’t appear to have lost a step. Clearly his current work isn’t going to hit the highs of such classics as Back to the Future, Forrest Gump or Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but Flight comes close, at times. Seemingly a vehicle for Denzel Washington to flex his acting muscle, he puts on an absolute show playing alcoholic commercial pilot, Whip Whitaker.
Flight contains the most intense plane crash sequence you will ever see on film. This visually terrifying sequence within the first few minutes of the movie really does a great job maintaining the reality of what would be happening in the cabin of an aircraft during such an emergency. The way the shots are set up showcasing how Denzel handles the situation is fantastic and really shows what we’ve been missing from Zemeckis the last decade. The final shot of the plane’s wing crushing a church steeple as members of an outdoor congregation scatter in fright is truly haunting and about as effective as any scene this year.
Whip Whitaker: No one could have landed that plane like I did. No one.
So, the crash sequence starts Flight out with a bang, but does the rest of the movie hold up? Yes and no. There are some moderate pacing issues with what goes on with the narrative through the bulk of the second act. It slows down substantially from the adrenaline rush of the first few scenes and it actually is kind of jarring, but it never stops being entertaining. A tense courtroom style scene towards the end brings the energy back up and nicely brings the the film to a thematic close.
There is some great acting to be seen in Flight, and not just from Denzel (who probably puts on his best performance since his Oscar winning role in 2001’s Training Day) The way he handles the mix of physical toughness and emotional fragility of his character with such nuance is remarkable and he will assuredly be in the Oscar conversation this year. John Goodman also shows up, chewing the scenery in a comic relief type role that really pays off plot-wise towards the end and Don Cheadle does his usual great work as well, playing Hugh Lang, an attorney assigned to Whitaker’s case.
Hugh Lang: The FAA placed ten pilots in simulators, recreated the events. Every pilot killed everybody on board! You were the only one who could do it!
Flight is the complete package, expertly mixing great scenes of intense action with a mostly slower paced and dramatic narrative that concludes with a hugely satisfying ending. Denzel Washington is a total scene stealer here, and there are some fantastic performances to be seen by the character actors as well. Flight will definitely get some mentions around Oscar season and is a definite must-watch, the crash sequence alone is worth the price of admission.