Combustible Celluloid
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With: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, Tamara Tunie, Brian Geraghty, Nadine Velazquez
Written by: John Gatins
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
MPAA Rating: R for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence
Running Time: 138
Date: 10/14/2012

Flight (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Wings of Change

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After two decades of gimmick- and special effects-based movies, director Robert Zemeckis once again finds the perfect balance between characters and spectacle, as he did in his best films Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit; it's also the most mature movie of his career.

Faced with a malfunctioning plane, commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) pulls off a spectacular crash landing that saves nearly all the lives on board. Unfortunately, during the subsequent investigation, it becomes apparent that he was drunk while flying. Worse, he abuses alcohol regularly. In the hospital, he meets a recovering drug addict, Nicole (Kelly Reilly), and decides to help her out. In the days leading up to a hearing that could cost Whip his job, he tries to stop drinking, but with all the pressure, he finds the urge too strong. Even with all the people in his life trying to help, however, it all comes down to Whip, who must decide for himself which path to take.

A slightly less talented director would have focused on the heavy issue of alcoholism, but Zemeckis instead uses the suspense of the impending hearing, as well as rich characters and performances (John Goodman is a particular standout). The balance makes for a far more effective and appealing film.

Likewise, the requisite special effects are relegated to the first act only, and, again, used to support the characters and themes, rather than the other way around. Moreover, Flight bravely includes many unconventional moments, ranging from powerful, passionate speeches by minor characters, to amazing moments with no dialogue at all. Flight is purely a Hollywood film, but it's Hollywood at its very best.

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