READER REPORT:

You gotta go see this: Flight

AARON SPENCER
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2013
flight
UNLIKELY HERO: Denzel Washington in Flight.

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Denzel Washington largely channels his character from Training Days in another tour de force in Flight, chewing up the screen as substance-abusing airline pilot Whip Whitaker.

Whitaker is a man of huge appetites, for alcohol, cocaine, woman and adrenaline, and he has an extreme personality to match. He is a habitual liar and serial risk-taker on one hell of an ego trip. When a drunk and high Whitaker meets the ultimate nightmare scenario for any flyer - catastrophic equipment failure - he works miracles to end up an unlikely hero.

After a short stint in hospital he's soon back to what he enjoys best, getting to the bottom of another bottle of spirits, while dodging a media pack at the old abandoned family farm. But there's a catch: blood tests from the hospital that reveal the state he was in when he got behind the controls of the jumbo jet.

Whitaker attempts to juggle a new romance with the pressing need to extract himself from a potential jail sentence, while pouring the contents of several distilleries down his throat. His self-destructive tendancies make him a walking nightmare for anyone attempting to help his cause. Washington excells as he portrays a man wallowing in the extremeties of self-degradation, as Whitaker reaches rock bottom while denying his life is in crisis or that he has any sort of problem.

Some of the scenes in the film are laughable. In one, Whitaker handles his plane as if it were Millennium Falcon making the jump to light speed, as he attempts to get out of a storm and in to a pocket of clear. His co-pilot reaches near-hysteria as the aircraft threatens to shake itself to bits. You half expect Scotty to appear exclaiming "she won't hold, Captain! She's breaking up!".

The movie also seems to glamourise drug taking to some degree; when Whitaker has a nose full of Bolivian marching powder, he performs feats that 10 out of 10 regular pilots can't perform when tested on flight simulators. 

The final 10 minutes seem to have been beamed in from another movie altogether, as the film suddenly pedals a hokey morality and redemption tale which is at odds with much of what has gone before it.

Flight is an uneven yet often exhilarating ride; after some initial turbulence, things settle down and you may even have time for a nap before we touch down with a smooth Hollywood ending.

What makes Flight a must see is its white-knuckle opening stanza and Washington's command performance.


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