Sunday, December 9, 2012

Flight (Rhoades)

 “Flight” Poised for
Successful Landing

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

We all reveled in that Miracle on the Hudson story, when Captain Chesley Sullenberger safely landed a plane in trouble with amazing grace and skill. Now we have a movie about another miraculous landing – not Sully this time, but a pilot named Whip Whitaker who performs an impossible landing by flipping his plane upside down when faced with an inflight emergency. However, things don’t go as well for Whip as they did for Scully after saving his planeload of passengers.
Denzel Washington takes on the role of Whip in “Flight,” the mystery drama that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Seems when our movie captain gets checked out after his astonishing landing, alcohol is discovered in his system. Not good. Hero or not, he could next be landing in prison.
Question is: Did Whip's intoxication cause the crash, or did his stunt-pilot flying diminish the crash impact and save countless lives? And can Whip stay sober long enough to give investigators the answer.
The ensemble cast includes Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo.
Director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump,” “Polar Express”) is himself an experienced pilot who understands “stalls, turbulence and dead stick landings.”
But he had a tough time (forgive me) in getting this film off the ground.
“In today’s Hollywood, you can't make a movie that is about ideas and complex characters for a lot of money,” Zemeckis says. “The development system destroys the possibility of ambiguity. It’s just the way things have evolved. And it’s very disappointing.”
It took 13 years to get the film to the screen. But Sullenberger’s miraculous flying gave Paramount more confidence in making the movie. “What if,” posited Paramount’s Adam Goodman, “Capt. Sully was wasted?”
That fanciful plot twist got “Flight” greenlighted.
This is Robert Zemeckis’s first live-action film since 2000’s “Cast Away.” And made with the smallest budget ($31 million) he’s had since 1980’s “Used Cars.” He and Denzel Washington waved their usual fees and Georgia provided generous tax rebates for filming near Atlanta.
Screenwriter John Gatins (“Real Steel”) based the crash depicted in “Flight” on the 2000 crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 where the pilots attempted to recover from a loss of control by flying the aircraft upside down. That crash, however, had no survivors.
Here, the emphasis is on the human elements, not the aerodynamics.
An alcoholic airlines pilot that you’re rooting for? Denzel Washington can pull it off, if anyone can. He’s had a successful history of playing flawed protagonists, from his Oscar-winning turn in “Training Day” to “American Gangster” and “Safe House.”
Zemeckis agreed that the actor could do it. “What intrigued me the most was how everything and every character was complex – no guys wearing white hats, no guys wearing black hats,” the director said.
Early audience tracking surveys have been positive. And the critics on Rotten Tomatoes have rated it at 88%.
Yes, you’ll like it, once you accept that “Flight” is not a retro ’70s disaster movie, but instead a touching film about a man learning to be honest with himself.

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