Expect turbulence in journey of self-discovery
Denzel Washington soars to career highs in Robert Zemeckis's emotionally wrought character study of an airplane pilot wrestling with alcohol dependency.
Underpinned by John Gatins's intelligent script, Flight is a provocative drama that refuses to cast judgment on the central character as he repeats past mistakes and attempts to dodge the repercussions of his reckless actions.
Instead, Zemeckis's film accompanies the pilot on a turbulent journey of self-discovery as a major mechanical failure in the air puts his boozy lifestyle under the microscope of public scrutiny.
Captain William "Whip" Whitaker (Washington) wakes in a plush hotel room festooned with discarded bottles and the naked body of last night's conquest, flight attendant Katerina Marquez (Nadine Velazquez).
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Swigs of beer set Whip up for the day and he strides purposefully into the cockpit of his SouthJet flight to Atlanta while holding a bottle of orange juice spiked with vodka.
A routine flight becomes a nightmare when the airplane suddenly loses altitude and hurtles towards the ground at terrifying speed.
Whip is forced to perform a daredevil manoeuvre to halt the rapid descent before crash-landing in a field.
But a subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, led by Ellen Block (Melissa Leo), threatens to expose Whip's alcoholism.
Union rep Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) promise to help Whip survive the fallout on the proviso that he changes his self-destructive ways.
Zemeckis orchestrates the intense crash scenes with brio but he is equally interested in quieter moments when Whip, played by a mesmerising Washington, wrestles with his guilt and attempts to resist the temptations of a hotel mini-bar.
Climactic scenes are gripping and we buckle up for a bumpy ride as Whip prepares to deliver sworn testimony at the public hearing, potentially glossing over the facts to restore a sheen to his stained reputation.
See tomorrow's Guide for an interview with Denzel Washington