FLIGHT

The moment that gets this movie going is the plane crash, but FLIGHT isn’t about a plane crash. it’s about a man’s crash. The plot is familiar. An alcoholic ruins his life and the lives of those around him. He lies and does horrible things all because of the booze. We’re only waiting for his moment of redemption. The moment when he realizes who he is and decides to change. So since we can all see what’s coming, the drama is all about how we get there. Here, that is all about Denzel Washington. He makes us feel sorry for Whip Whitaker, then he makes us loathe him. Washington drags us through the mess that Whitaker has created and finally to the realization that his life cannot be a constant drug and alcohol fueled roller coaster. Robert Zemeckis does a decent job, mainly by getting out of Denzel’s way. His main contribution is the drama and execution of the plane crash. The supporting cast is more than capable and for the second movie in a row John Goodman steals every scene he appears in. But this is Denzel’s movie and he should get his tuxedo ready, because he will be one of the five best actor nominees next January. — Alan Yudman

A bait-and-switch that plays out the switch part capably, so you only feel mildly betrayed. Let’s just say the trailer gives you no idea of what this is really about. The first half-hour contains the set-piece: a spectacular plane crash, thrillingly done, action movie exciting, and pretty much the only thing you see in the ads.  But in the ensuing two hours (it’s long) the movie takes a hard turn, which entirely changes its tone. Suddenly, we’re in CLEAN AND SOBERland. (And I was expecting something more like Michael Crichton’s “Airframe”.) But there are lots of great performances. Washington is subtle; he only gives so much, but what he gives just nails it. Kelly Reilly, new to me, has a touching vulnerability: watch her sitting on the hospital stairway with Denzel and a cancer patient simply called “Gaunt Young Man”. That patient is played by James Badge Dale, and based on what he puts into his one scene, you’re going to want to see more of him. And John Goodman is all swagger and stoned self-confidence. It’s talky, but there’s a parallel NTSB investigation plot (with a not very original part for Don Cheadle) which adds a bit of suspense, including a tense Q-and-A between Denzel and Melissa Leo. But you know how it’s gonna end way before the ending comes. And when it comes, the wrap-up feels a bit limp. — Jeff Schultz

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