Movie Review: Denzel Washington Flies High in 'Flight'

The opening scene could do a lot to boost ridership of both Amtrak and Greyhound, critics say.

“Flight” is the second movie in which Denzel Washington puts on a uniform and picks up a bottle. This time, though, he’s not working for the Pentagon as he was in “Courage Under Fire.” Instead, he’s an alcoholic commercial airline pilot named Whip Whitaker. After ingesting booze and cocaine and then taking the controls of an airplane, he crash lands the airplane through a storm safely in a field, saving all but a few of the passengers on board. Director Robert Zemeckis (who brought us the “Back to the Future” movies, as well as "Forrest Gump" and "Cast Away," with another airplane crash) jolts us with a realistic plane crash, but the real horror unfolds as we plunge into the life of an addict.

Other cast membes include:  Tamara Tunie as Margaret Thomason, John Goodman as Harling Mays, Kelly Reilly as Nicole Maggen, Don Cheadle as Hugh Lang, Nadine Velazquez as Katerina Marquez, Bruce Greenwood as Charlie Anderson and Melissa Leo as Ellen Block.

Here's what critics are gushing about the magnetic Denzel Washington and the movie. Can you spell Oscar?

But "Flight" is at heart Denzel Washington’s show, and he makes the most of it. He digs deeply into the self-delusion of Whip’s invincibility and the self-loathing when his world literally comes crashing down around him. It’s a powerful performance that doesn’t need any of Zemeckis’ tricks to soar. Sean Means, Salt Lake City Tribune

Superficially, “Flight” is the sort of award-season entry that earns plaudits simply because its subjects are sanctified as important, serious. There’s seriousness in “Flight,” but not self-seriousness. And what distinguishes it is the balance of its parts and how its floating, racing cameras complement the nimble performances, rocking emotions and ups and downs of the story and music alike. MANOHLA DARGIS, The New York Times

As Captain Whip Whitaker, Washington plays an airline pilot who, despite being hung-over, drunk and coked-up, manages to bring down a rapidly deteriorating plane in a daring emergency landing on what should have been a routine hop between Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta ... The thrilling crash, which essentially opens the film, is a kind of carrot for moviegoers who are then lured into a powerful character study of Whitaker as he wrestles with his drinking problem while his heroics are called into question. He’s a Captain Sully with demons. Washington Post

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