After seeing the first trailer for Flight, I expected greatness – a Best Picture nominee. The preview is so powerful that the movie containing those clips would have to be a masterpiece, right? Wrong.
Based on the previews, this is the path that I expected Flight to take: we see a plane crash from the perspective of a random bystander. Instead of killing everyone, the pilot (Denzel Washington) pulls an insane trick that saves the lives of almost everyone aboard. After the wreck, it’s revealed that he may have been intoxicated, so we don’t know whether he caused the crash or saved everyone from dying in it. At this point, the film would turn into a federal investigation courtroom drama filled with testimonials from passengers on the plane. Each testimonial would show the crash from a different perspective, shedding a little more light on the crash. The movie would finally end with the pilot taking the stand and we’d learn the truth. Sadly, Flight is nothing like this. The movie that I came up with is worlds better than the story that Zemeckis tells.
Flight opens with Denzel Washington and Nadine Velazquez (My Name is Earl) buck naked in a hotel room. Get ready for what the MPAA calls “graphic nudity,” several minutes of full frontal female nudity. After a few minutes of nude walking and talking, the two snort a couple lines of cocaine, toss back a few beers and head to work – where Denzel continues drinking. He’s the pilot, she’s a flight attendant. There’s no question as to whether the pilot of this soon-to-be-crashing plane is intoxicated. The plane crashes in a unique manner that makes for one of the most intense film sequences I’ve seen in a long time. After the crash, Denzel is shocked to be alive and decides to change his ways – or so it seems. In no time, he’s back to the drugs and alcohol without any remorse. He consciously decides to make these bad decisions, so he’s not a character that remotely comes close to establishing an emotional connection of sympathy. He’s an awful person, which doesn’t bode well considering we’re forced to watch him for nearly 140 minutes.
After the crash, absolutely nothing happens. That federal investigation and courtroom stuff that we see in trailers is all found at the tail end of the film. The entire middle section is composed of fluffy morality tales – none of which are effective. We are reaffirmed that Denzel’s failed marriage is due to alcohol. We meet a heroine junkie that Denzel immediately and randomly falls for. But what’s the message of this morality play? I don’t exactly know – but it sure isn’t moral. The cocaine and alcohol abuse isn’t exactly looked down upon. Most of the film reinforces it. Just as jumbled as the morals is the tone of the film. Is it comedy? Is it a drama? Is it a black comedy? Is it a melodrama? Who knows. It’s never just one thing. Each scene can change in an instant.
Washington is receiving praises for his portrayal as an alcoholic, but I want to encourage everyone to see the Sundance flick Smashed when it opens locally because it’s a much more honest and genuine approach on alcoholism. If anything, John Goodman receives the acting praise because he plays a character that’s at least consistent. Acting like his character from The Big Lebowski, his role may be the most unfitting for Flight, but at least it’s consistent. Truthfully, Goodman is so good that I’d rather be watching the non-existent movie that his character just walked out of over this one.
As much as I hate bad movies, you can usually see them coming and prepare yourself. If it’s awful, then you can say, “It’s exactly what I expected,” and if it’s good, then it’s a pleasant surprise. But nothing hurts more than a brilliant-looking film that crash lands on the far opposite end of the spectrum. That’s where Flight goes down. (You’ll soon get another review for a movie that builds itself up exceptionally high in the trailers and comes nowhere close to hitting the target. Hint-hint.) Flight feels like an After School Special made for adults, a made-for-TV morality play put together by The Amateur Hour. It’s a jumbled mess that’s much more disasterous than the tragic event that opens it, a plane wreck that you want to peel your eyes away from.
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures