Denzel takes off

by Gazette Reporter

I have something of a confession, dear readers.
In the year or so that I have been writing movie reviews for The Gazette, I have never particularly taken to one aspect of the place; the five-star movie rating system.
It eliminates grey areas and leaves reviews to define something as either awful, mediocre, average, great or excellent.
This system panders to a modern need to have everything fit into a neatly labelled box and removes nuance.
And, as is so often the case in my life, it has taken Denzel Washington to show me the way.
It is Flight that has me pondering this existential gap in the human ability to judge relative merits.
For, it is not an average film nor is it a great film.
In the aforementioned five-star system, three is too little, four is too generous.
Which is why I am implementing the half star, the seven out of 10  in this case.
Because, this is definitely a film worth seeing.
Is it a life-changer? Not really.  Will it feature in many best of the year lists? Unlikely.
Will it entertain you for just north of two hours? Almost certainly.
The bulk of the entertainment is carried in the first 40 minutes, as we get acquainted with Washington’s pilot Whip Whitaker.
By get acquainted I mean see him do drugs and have sex in a cheap motel room a couple of hours before taking control of a plane carrying 112 people.
So first impressions aren’t great, but when the mess hits the fan, only one person keeps their cool.
As a storm, a nervous co-pilot and his own drunkeness conspire against him, Whitaker manages to guide the plan out of a perilous situation into a field.
First anninted a hero, Whitaker must face public and political scrutiny into his condition on the day of the crash.
It is here that the film feels strained.
At 138 minutes long, it  is probably bloated by about 20 minutes and the weight given to the various relationships in the film is out of kilter.
Why spend so long on a marriage of convenience with fellow addict Kelly Reilly (who is excellent, notwithstanding), and leave us so bereft of screen time with Whip’s son and ex wife?
When confronting these relationships, Jason Gatins script, which has been nominated for an Oscar, falls a little short.
But, what it does exceptionally well is pose an important question; why do we always need a hero?
Here is a man who took charge of a plane drunk, yet the audience wants him to prevail because of how well he landed the plane and, let’s be honest, just how goddamn cool he is. It is an interesting moral conundrum that will have many in disagreement afterwards.
Of course, this is Denzel’s movie.
He is on screen for almost every scene and absolutely dominates every last one, playing Whitaker with arrogance, coolness and vulnerability. His Oscar nomination is richly deserved and his performance more than reason enough to give Flight a whirl.

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