Flight (2012)

flight-posterStarring Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Tamara Tunie, Nadine Velazquez, Brian Geraghty, Peter Gerety, Garcelle Beauvais, Justin Martin

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


The elements for a fantastic movie are in place, but Flight is much too long-winded and unfocused to get its point across succinctly. I really did like the film, don’t get me wrong, but there’s only so many scenes of Denzel Washington throwing caution to the wind and getting drunk that I can take. I suppose that’s all part of his journey, but it felt long to me. In any case, at its heart Flight is a movie about alcoholism. Anyone who’s dealt with an alcoholic (or with addiction itself) can tell you that it’s a frustrating experience, and Flight recreates that frustration wonderfully. I’m unsure if that’s a compliment, but I’m pretty sure it is… I think.

Flight tells the story of Whip Whitaker, a pilot with a serious substance abuse problem, particularly vodka and cocaine (but he’ll take what he can get). If only someone had told him about all the great low cost and free rehabs for addicts out there. Anyway, the film opens on the aftermath of a night of sex and heavy drinking, and in just a few hours Whip must pilot a commercial airliner from Florida to Atlanta. It’s a short flight… what could go wrong? Everything, apparently. Once in the air, the turbulence is immense, but despite his drunkenness he’s still a good pilot who’s confident and able to do his job. This flight sequence is unforgettable and incredibly well-done, easily the most thrilling and memorable scene in the film. Shame it comes at the beginning, especially in such a long, understated character study.

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Mo’ Better Blues (1990)

Mo’ Better Blues (1990)

Starring Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Giancarlo Esposito, Robin Harris, Joie Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Dick Anthony Williams, Cynda Williams, Nicholas Turturro

Directed by Spike Lee

Expectations: Moderate. I like jazz, I like Spike Lee.


Hot off of Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee delivered Mo’ Better Blues, a film about a jazz musician trying to juggle his artistic pursuits and his relationships. It’s not nearly as succinct and riveting as the previous film, but as a huge jazz fan, it held my attention fully throughout. I generally shy away from music biopics, and while this isn’t really a biopic, it’s enough of a story about a young musician to be potentially troubled waters for me. Thank God Spike Lee isn’t one for clichés and conventions, though, as Mo’ Better Blues takes a much different route to its conclusion than the plot might initially suggest.

The film opens in a New York neighborhood as the tortured sounds of a kid practicing trumpet scales can be heard coming from an upstairs window. A group of kids yell up to the window for their friend, but Bleek’s mother refuses to allow him to go play with his “hoodlum friends.” Instead, Bleek is to practice his scales and only after his lesson will he be allowed to go outside. Even the soft-spoken words of his father are not enough to sway his strong-willed mother. When Bleek resigns himself to this fact, the film cuts ahead 20 years and we rejoin Bleek (now played by Denzel Washington) playing with his quintet in a jazz club drenched in deep red light.

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