Washington impresses in Flight

FLYING HIGH: Denzel Washington in Flight. There’s probably no one alive who could play this role better.
FLYING HIGH: Denzel Washington in Flight. There’s probably no one alive who could play this role better.

FLIGHT (R16) (139 min)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly.

A passenger jet carrying 102 people loses its hydraulics more than 9000 metres up. In the cockpit, the pilot pulls off an astounding feat of airmanship, and manages to bring the plane under a semblance of control. Only six people die. A crash that would have claimed every soul on board has been averted. But when the unconscious pilot's blood is tested, he's found to be drunk and high on cocaine. Like the song says, ''all the sinners' saints''.

And so Flight heads away from a stonkingly good first act, and heads into a well-played out moral swamp. What do you do when America's newest hero is a womanising alcoholic with the output of a small Bolivian lifestyle block running around his brain?

There's probably no-one alive who could play this role better than Denzel Washington. Take his corrupt cop from Training Day, his good detective from Inside Man, and pour them both into a pilot's uniform, and you'll get exactly this likeable/loathable rogue. Beside him, British actress Kelly Reilly gets another shot at a star making role, and turns in a lovely credible performance as Washington's recovering junkie partner.

Flight is a smart film, full of jagged characters, meshing and grinding against each other in dark and well-written ways. Only a slightly too-easy ending lets the film down at all.

John Goodman has been getting plenty of praise for his cameo as Washington's dealer, but keep an eye out for one pivotal scene early on in Flight. Our couple have just met, smoking cigarettes in a hospital stairwell, when up climbs a young cancer patient, who proceeds to deliver a ramshackle near-monologue on life. The actor's name is James Badge Dale. For about five minutes he blows Denzel Washington right off the screen. Hopefully we'll see a lot more of him soon. Wow.

The Dominion Post