Movie review: Flight

By Columbus Alive
From the November 1, 2012 edition

When you’ve got director Robert Zemeckis (“Forest Gump”) teaming with two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington, you’re looking at a movie that’s shooting for year-end awards.

But with both parties not always great at picking their projects, I wasn’t expecting much from “Flight.” I was in for a surprise.

Whip Whitaker (Washington) is a commercial airline pilot who performs a near-miraculous crash landing, saving the lives of all but six souls on board a doomed airliner.

But the subsequent investigation turns up some skeletons in Whip’s closet. A night of heavy drinking before the crash may have continued into the day.

After a breathless opening sequence depicting the events of the crash, “Flight” deviates its course toward heavier fare.

Washington makes himself an early Oscar contender. The moral ambiguity of Whip — both a hero and a drunk — is challenging, and Washington maintains an unpredictability that drives the film.

Zemeckis has an entertainer’s flair — a drug-dealing John Goodman, for example, is played for laughs, even as the subject matter turns serious — but he never quite succumbs to the movie-of-the-week schmaltz that a film about addiction can be.

It’s not without flaws, but “Flight” soars more than it crashes.