Flight: No nosedive for this blockbuster

Image

Director Robert Zemeckis is back with Flight, his first live-action film since 2000’s Cast Away (his last few films – The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, all animations). In Cast Away, the movie began with an intense plane crash sequence. In latest flick Flight, he follows that same pattern, with one of the scariest plane crash sequences in the history of cinema.

Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is a very experienced, very trusted airline captain who just happens to have a bit of a drinking and drugging problem. The night before a trip from Orlando to Atlanta, Whip partakes in excessive amounts of booze and some recreational cocaine with sexy stewardess fuck-buddy, Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), and on the flight itself, dumps a couple of mini vodka bottles into his orange juice.

Disaster strikes mid-flight, however, when the plane begins a deadly nosedive due to a mechanical failure – the plane crashing into a collision course that would surely have killed all 102 passengers if not for Whip’s impeccable flyboy skills. Whip remains cool, calm and collected and pulls off an incredible emergency landing by inverting the plane completely – something only very few pilots could have managed. As a result, only six souls were lost.

Back on the ground, battered but essentially unharmed, Whip finds himself the subject of an investigation by the NTSB – a troubling development, considering the empty vodka bottles and a post-crash toxicology report.

Enter Whittaker’s union rep (Bruce Greenwood) and lawyer (Don Cheadle) – the only individuals standing between Whip and some serious jail time.

Stories about alcoholism can only end one of two ways however: The guy is either going to have an epiphany and come clean, or something bad is going to happen. Zemeckis meanders through the story taking a bit too long to wrap up subplots dealing with Whip’s love interest (Kelly Reilly), an incredibly funny scene with John Goodman as Whip’s cocaine-supplier and a drawn out legal battle resulting in a public hearing where Whip must re-live the events of the crash.

While we never really delve into the reasons why Whip has given his life over to booze and drugs, Denzel’s stellar performance reminds us that whatever it is, it’s genuine. The movie belongs to him throughout – his performance so strong, so engaging, that it covers many of the story’s weaknesses.

When Whip defiantly insists that no one else could have crash-landed the broken plane, you believe it. Not because the movie’s story proves it, but because of the power of Washington’s performance: No one else could have played this difficult role so well.

Advertisements

Argo F**k Yourself

Some stories are so unbelievable that they can only be true. Argo is one such story.

The film opens in 1979, in the middle of an Iranian revolution. We see angry crowds swarm outside the American embassy in Iran, viciously protesting for the extradition of recently deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – demanding that he be returned to Iran to hang for his crimes against its people.

After days of rioting outside the gates, the US embassy is eventually overthrown by revolutionaries and the inhabitants held hostage. Six American diplomatic staff evade capture , however, and take shelter in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. If discovered, they face brutal and public execution

Back home at the White House, the administration of President Jimmy Carter is running out of time. The best man available for the worst job imaginable is Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA agent who specialises in “exfiltration” – retrieving ordinary US citizens from extraordinary situations all over the world.

Mendez has an idea and, by his own admission, it’s a longshot. After much deliberation, the proposal gets a green light, largely due to the words of Bryan Cranston’s character – “It is the best bad idea we have”.

The Mendez pitch is this: he will travel to Tehran posing as a Canadian film producer. Once there, he will persuade the newly installed (and radically militant) Iranian regime that the six stowaways are his crew scouting Middle East locations for an upcoming sci-fi production.

There are multiple passports to be forged, and a lot of fast talking to be done. One minor slip-up, and everyone dies. Including himself.

Affleck’s third feature film as a director, Argo is a taut, well-paced suspense thriller with so much palpable tension that it has you on the edge of your seat.

The screenplay (based on a book penned by Mendez) is the key, relaying tons of information while ably carrying in excess of 100 different speaking parts. Sometimes it sticks to the facts. Sometimes it embellishes them. Nevertheless, you will be hanging on each and every word.

The acting of the ensemble cast – led strongly by Affleck – is faultless. No one steals a scene. Everyone picks one up, runs with it a while, and hands it to someone else.

All in all, Argo is a stunning achievement in direction, screenwriting, acting and filmmaking. If this movie doesn’t bag at least one Oscar, I’ll eat my hat.

%d bloggers like this: