Flight: No nosedive for this blockbuster

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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.

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DVD Review: Magic Mike

There are guy movies and girl movies, the latter of which the guys label “chick flicks” and often only ever see under protest.

Is Magic Mike a chick flick?

If it is, it may the first of a new breed. It’s a crisp, unsentimental story, with none of those lingering sunset shots you find in Nicholas Sparks’ adaptations, and a heroine who spends most of the movie tutting her disapproval on the sidelines. But while it’s not necessarily a chick flick, you can be sure that the primary audience to this film are indeed women.

Why? Because Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) is a stripper, and so is his mentor, club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), and his 19-year-old protégé, Adam (Alex Pettyfer).

From the opening shots of a buff, naughty McConaughey teasing the audience in tight leather trousers (“What can’t you touch?”), it’s clear that Soderbergh has the measure of what his audience wants. He’s going to give it to them, too, but not too much, too soon because the tease is as important as the strip.

A college dropout who draws the line at taking any job that requires him to wear a tie, Adam is living with his big sister Brooke (Cody Horn) when his new buddy Mike ushers him into the delights of the Xquisite Male Dance Revue. In time-honoured backstage musical tradition, “the kid” gets thrown on stage when one of the stars can’t go on. Next thing he knows, Adam is shopping for a stars and stripes thong for the Fourth of July special.

Scripted by Reid Carolin and inspired by Channing Tatum’s own experiences as a Tampa stripper in the 1990s, Magic Mike is honest about the attractions of the job (money, girls, fun) without pretending it’s a smart choice in the long run (too much fun, too many girls, not enough money).

Brawny and bruised, Tatum doesn’t look like it but he is one hell of a dancer. If the movie was in 3-D you’d probably be stuffing bills into his briefs.

Magic Mike hits DVD outlets on October 23rd.

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