Denzel Washington is a drama king. In an unsavory role, somewhat reminiscent of his “Training Day” part, he cuts up and acts up in a new shameful role. Relaxed, highly crafted acting is what he delivers with each part he plays. “Flight” was no exception. He lost himself in the role of Whip Whitaker, a flight captain, and reverse savior. One would almost want to refer Washington to AA until one remembers that he’s just acting in the capacity of a man in the grips of a substance abuse problem. Known for such role immersion, Washington never cheats his audience. Flat-Footed, apologetically, and without wavering, he delivers.
His role and reach continue to expand as he takes on a variety of leading roles. At first blush, one would wonder why he elects to play such nefarious characters. As this movie unfolds, one sees a pleasant redemption that endears. One can see why he gave this script a nod.
On the IMDb website for this movie, are 17 slideshow pictures where Washington portrays various emotions that are dead-and-center what one would expect in real life. Spot-on also are his actions, words, and extra touches; such as a tongue in the cheek during at least one scene.
Writer John Gatins provided a story that one could sink their teeth in. Layered, and circuitous, the characters are drawn from the catalog of real life. The captain’s character is complex, a twinning of hero and irresponsible steward of lives. Gatins still caused viewers to care about this pilot; who entered the cockpit with a snort full of cocaine, and a gut full of booze. Between his writing, and Washington’s acting; the viewer wants to kick, punch and hug the pilot all at once. This is the hallmark of exceptional writing and superb acting.
Other first-billed actors, such as Don Cheadle and Katerina Marquez also plant their feet well in their roles. John Goodman in a cameo role was costumed-up so that he was hard to identify. However, a costume can only do so much. Goodman also depicted naughty narcotics hustler Harling Mays very well.
We just got a pinch of Goodman’s acting abilities, but it was enough for us to appreciate his versatility and ability to hide within a character.
Robert Zemeckis’s directing was nothing to sneeze at. For great acting and writing can only get a movie so far. Behind the scenes, but in a crucial role, he did the brilliant work of bringing all of this together. Great pacing and sequencing made this an enjoyable view.
Few endings are a surprise anymore these days. The last 20 minutes, and even the very ending of “Flight” took viewers to places they didn’t anticipate. While it seemed that the movie was over-long at first, the extra time was worth it in the final analysis. There is a whole cadre of others who were ready to cover the pilot’s lapse, and viewers expect him to come out of it smelling like a rose. Instead, since he had reached the bottom of life’s barrel, at the last minute he discovered a way to start an upward surf. He does this by going nose-down as his airplane had done – he tattles on himself. In so doing, the character is redeemed, our faith in him is repaired, and the character gains inroads in the fractured relationship he has with his son. What a way to end a movie!