As a whole, Flight is hardly a terrible movie and there are far worse choices out there, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was severely disappointed. The Blu-ray has a limited selection of features but is worth watching and both of the audio/video transfers are quite nice. If you like Denzel Washington and don’t mind melodrama on steroids or alcohol, then this might be worth a rental, otherwise wait for this to air on television.
Paramount | R – 138 min. – $39.99 | February 5, 2013
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Writer(s): John Gatins (written by
Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, Brian Geraghty
Theatrical Release Date: November 2, 2012
Features: Featurettes, DVD Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Disc Size: 38.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
Overly theatrical and not nearly engrossing, the character-driven drama Flight had plenty of potential and an incredible cast but ultimately it’s a clichéd-riddled film with a poor finale to cap things off.
The story follows airline captain Whip Whitaker (DENZEL WASHINGTON), a charming fellow with a petulance for sleeping with hot stewardesses (in this case it is hottie NADINE VELAZQUEZ of “My Name is Earl” fame) and has a drinking and drug problem. After binge drinking the night before, he also takes a hit of cocaine to wake him up before he’s set to take a flight from Orlando to Atlanta. He’s divorced and, like most breakups, is contentious with his ex who calls that morning.
Meanwhile, in a separate story, we meet drug addict Nicole (KELLY REILLY) who works as a “masseuse” to make ends meet and to support her habit. She receives a high concentrate of an Afghan drug which, despite being told not to from her dealer, she injects directly which she overdoses on and is sent to the hospital.
Back on the plane, Whip is eccentric being high which his new co-pilot Ken (BRIAN GERAGHTY) takes notice of though the crew, including the stewardess we met before, are all too familiar with it seems. The flight starts out bumpy with a turbulent storm which rocks the plane and he pushes the engines to pull through which he does brining the plane into calm airs and applause from the passengers. However, Whip has a big problem with alcohol going so far that he needs a couple mini-bottles of vodka to take the edge off.
Towards the end of the flight, something goes incredibly wrong as the plane begins to take a nosedive and the co-pilot has lost all controls. Calm, cool and collected (thanks no doubt to the cocaine he sniffed in the morning), Whip takes control doing a wild barrel move taking the airplane upside down and, through some techno jabber, stabilizes the aircraft long enough to glide versus freefalling. The plane’s wing takes out a church bell tower before a violent crash into an open field; luckily a church group was gathered outside.
During the crash, though, Whip is knocked out and eventually wakes up in the hospital. At his side is old friend, former co-pilot and a rep for the union, Charlie Anderson (BRUCE GREENWOOD). After some pleasantries, and a way to fill the audience in on their background, agents from the NTSB (the authority who investigate crashes) informs Whip that 6 people had died, 2 of them crew members including the naked woman from the film’s opening scene. Though the loss of life was tragic, the other 100+ passengers and crew were saved thanks to his heroic and insane actions.
We also eventually meet Whip’s eccentric best friend, and cocaine supplier, Harling Mays (JOHN GOODMAN) who must be a close relative of “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski because he dresses like him and has similar mannerisms and a “cool” factor so few can carry. It’s obvious that he’s the comic relief for the picture with some rude humor and wonderful choice of music (his entrance is to The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”).
During the night, Whip is jonesing for a nicotine fix and goes to the stairwell to smoke where Nicole had the same idea and he invites her to stay. Joining the two is a patient of cancer who also needs a cigarette. During this time the cancer patient (TOMMY KANE) does some chat about life, God, etc, nicely setting up for the underline story for the movie. After his departure, never to be seen or heard from again, Whip and Nicole converse with Whip eventually asking for her address so he may visit her.
The next day Harling picks Whip up from the hospital but with his condo under siege by the media, he instead heads to a family farm once owned by his grandfather and eventually passed down to him. He’s been trying to sell the place with no success. Now, though, it’s a place of save haven. Inside, Whip decides to quit his drunken ways and empties all the booze (and there’s a lot) perhaps hopes of finding some kind of peace. After he’s situated, he decides to head to Nicole’s apartment only to find her leaving since she has been unable to pay the rent to her sleazy landlord (aren’t they all in movies?) and, with her car broken, offers her a roof under her head staying at the farm. There’s no quid pro quo but you know these two kids are going to get it on…
Back to the plane crash part of the story, Whip attends a lunch with Charlie and attorney Hugh Lang (DON CHEADLE) who has been retained to defend Whip after urine and blood tests done after the crash showed over-the-limit alcohol content and high levels of cocaine in his system. The NTSB wants to categorize the crash as pilot error rather than a mechanical failure which Whip knows to be true. Of course, being the switch attorney he is, after some tribulation on Whip’s part, Charlie attempts to use some legal loophole to get the results thrown out.
At the farm, while Nicole is taking the steps to kick her drug habit (attending AA meetings and getting steady employment), the pressure of increasing media scrutiny is taking its toll on Whip and eventually falls off the wagon and binges like he’s never done before. And with a crucial meeting with the NTSB investigation – headed by Ellen Block (MELISSA LEO) – getting closer, can he sober up? Can he own up to his part?
Alright, first things first: I will say Denzel Washington turns in an excellent performance. This is the kind of performance, and he’s the kind of actor all around, who is able to provide consistency in a box office era where it’s anything but. In Flight, he gives an otherwise unlikable character some great charm and he certainly elevates the story. Washington most certainly deserves the Oscar nomination.
And as for the bad: most everything else. For one thing, you have a screenplay that turns on the melodrama into high gear. Outside of Washington’s character, I’d be hard pressed to find anyone else really memorable save for maybe Kelly Reilly who receives the widest character change. But then you have talented actors like Don Cheadle (a favorite of mine), Bruce Greenwood and John Goodman not having a heck of lot to do and in the case of Cheadle’s character, somewhat useless. As an example, there were a few times throughout in which Cheadle’s character builds up Ms. Block as some sort of pariah and while indeed she doesn’t have a lot to work with by the time the hearing begins in the climax, she was anything but that. It makes me wonder why Melissa Leo would take such a small and ultimately insignificant part.
A couple other issues I had were 1) unintentional funny or over-the-top characters such as the Jesus-freaks co-pilot and his wife as they are, of course, thankful to Whip but really go above and beyond with their “Praise Jesus” cry that it was more uncomfortable rather than either dramatic or funny; and 2) although I understand the use of music can be effective, many of the songs were far too on-the-nose that it became a distraction and, especially, seemed to be used to manipulate audience’s feelings. Again, nothing new but culminate with everything else, it stood out.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Flight had plenty of potential and outside of Denzel Washington and maybe Kelly Reilly, it just was not very effective in the drama department. The story was all over the place and Whip’s turn came way too quickly that that too wasn’t successful as it should’ve come sooner and with a change in his decision on whether to lie or not, could have made for an interesting third act.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This 2-disc release comes with a glossy slip cover. Inside is a feature-less DVD Copy, download codes for the UltraViolet Digital Copy and standard Digital Copy (compatible with iTunes).
Origins of Flight (10:29; HD) – This tackles how the project came about from its inception by the screenwriter (which began in the late ‘90s) through the casting and filming. It’s actually an intriguing featurette and includes standard comments from the cast and crew.
The Making of Flight (11:31; HD) delves more into the behind-the-scenes aspect of the filming and has more on-set cast/crew interviews.
Anatomy of a Plane Crash (7:46; HD) breaks down how the sequence was filmed from animatics/pre-visualization to practical to visual effects.
Q&A Highlights (14:18; HD) is the entire cast, sans Washington, and a couple crew (like Zemeckis) of Flight at some kind of conference answering questions from the moderator about the project and their characters. As with the featurettes, this does provide interesting insights into the movie.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Flight crash lands onto Blu-ray with a fine 1080p high-definition transfer and presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. While not exactly extraordinary looking picture, the transfer here is nice and clean, free of flaws and the color array is well balanced throughout. The detail levels are also great as are the darker elements which don’t show any signs of pixilation or artifacting. My only dilemma is, it does look a bit too clean and there isn’t any natural grain or noise, though it’s possible that was how it was presented in theaters.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track gets the job done and is effective enough, but nothing more. Outside of the plane crash scene, the majority of the film is dialogue driven save for some of the choice music I mentioned in the movie review section. Still, dialogue levels are crisp and clear while the action scene provides the surrounds with a pleasant dynamic.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, as a whole, Flight is hardly a terrible movie and there are far worse choices out there, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was severely disappointed. The Blu-ray has a limited selection of features but is worth watching and both of the audio/video transfers are quite nice. If you like Denzel Washington and don’t mind melodrama on steroids or alcohol, then this might be worth a rental, otherwise wait for this to air on television.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.