‘Flight’ hits hard as intense character study, not action movie

Denzel Washington in ‘Flight.’ Rated R, 138 min. Paramount Pictures, 2012.

Denzel Washington is frightening and fantastic in “Flight” as a man struggling mightily with drug and alcohol addiction. The twist here is that in this tightly-focused character study, his character, William “Whip” Whitaker, is also an airline pilot.

After heroically crash-landing a failing passenger jet – while still drunk from the night before – Whip is the subject of more public scrutiny than he can handle, leading to all kinds of conflict.

Washington doesn’t go overboard trying to make Whip likable despite his flaws. Instead, he presents a compelling, confusing, and disturbingly realistic contrast between the hero and the desperate addict. He brings you right into Whip’s feelings of guilt and denial, to the point where you will hold your breath when he is tempted to drink before an important FAA hearing.

After crashing Tom Hanks in “Cast Away,” director Robert Zemeckis stages another anxiety-inducing plane crash sequence you won’t soon forget. He also has assembled a top-flight supporting cast, including Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo and many more.

While “Flight” speeds through its conclusion, it leaves you with a lot to think about – including another probable Oscar nomination for Washington.

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