Thursday, January 10, 2013

Movie Review: Flight (2012) -- Overall Rating 3.25 / 5

With the Oscar announcements having come out; I decided to jump the gun and post some of the full reviews I had already prepared for films that are nominated.
Starring Denzel Washington & Kelly Reilly.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Rated R.

Story: 3 / 5
Direction: 2 / 5
Acting: 4 / 5
Visual: 4 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.25 / 5
Explanation of rating categories appears at the bottom of each review posting.

Flight opens with a scene of our protagonist, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), waking up after what appears to be a night of partying, downing a beer, arguing with his ex-wife about money over the phone, snorting a line of coke, all the while a fully naked woman paces the room, and finally donning his flight captain’s uniform. This is brilliantly effective character establishment, if only the rest of the picture had taken all of its cues from this scene.

The film has the unfortunate job of telling what is essentially a personal story about substance abuse amidst the background of an epic and awesome disaster. In the end did it need that epic background?  Everything surrounding the disaster was incredible, even having seen the trailer, and knowing how the scene ends, I was on the edge of my seat, but that’s all there is. From that point forward it’s a simple story of how a man has to admit he has a problem and seek help for it.

Did Flight need to be 2 hours and 20 minutes long?  Absolutely not. In the build up to the disaster we’re being introduced to Nicole (Kelly Reilly) in cutaway. She’ll become important later, but when she finally meets Whip she has to introduce herself to him anyway. Fiction Writing 101 dictates that the audience doesn’t need to be introduced to her twice, unless one of those scenes tells us something we won’t get from the other. As it plays out her early establishing scenes don’t add any depth that the audience couldn’t get while watching the two characters interact later on.

Despite these other minor failings, the performances are amazing, with the possible exception of John Goodman hamming it up every second he’s in front of the camera. I’ve heard it said already that Denzel is likely to get nominated for an Oscar, but has the unfortunate luck of doing so in a year when Daniel Day Lewis was also in a film. Washington is brilliant in striking the right balance between utter contempt for his failings and a sympathetic admiration for his merits.

Would I recommend this film?  Yes, if just for the opening 30 minutes alone and the performances. And maybe you’ll be a little less critical of the ham fisted treatment of the story than I was.

Explanation of Ratings

All ratings are on a 5 point scale where 1 is the lowest possible score. A score of 3 indicates the film was simply effective in this regard. A score of 5 indicates perfection in a given category. The overall rating is a simple average of the four scores.

  • Story -- How well the film was written?  Did the story make sense?  Were there plot holes?  Was the dialogue natural for the style/genre?
  • Direction -- How well was the film put together?  Did all of the elements come together properly?  How was the pacing?  Was the tone consistent and effective?  A subcategory of this would be editing, but for the purpose of these reviews it is combined into one category.
  • Acting -- How good were the performances?  In a drama did the lead actor/actress draw the audience in?  In a comedy where the performers funny?  This is an amalgam score of all the performances in the piece. A single great performance can elevate the entire score, but a bunch of bad performances can just as easily bring it down.
  • Visual -- How did the film look?  If there were visual effects were they used appropriately and did they look good?  Did the overall look enhance the telling of the story?

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