Using gut instinct and immense talent, Captain Whip Whitaker (Washington) has just saved an airplane from nose-diving into the ground, instead using some outlandish tactics to land the plane relatively safely, saving 96 of the 102 passengers on board. While being hailed as a hero by the survivors and the reporters covering the tragedy, what people don't know is that Whitaker was both drunk and high as a kite on coke when the plane crashed. So while Whitaker did save the day, there is a chance that the blame for the crash may well be shifted from the poorly maintained aircraft, and placed squarely at his feet.
This is the interesting moral dilemma at the centre of Robert Zemeckis' latest feature and one that you'll walk away thinking about. Zemeckis has been missing for a while after pioneering the motion-capture movies (The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol), but has always been pushing the technological envelope even with his live action feature films (Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Cast Away, What Lies Beneath and Forrest Gump). With Flight, however - aside from the crash scene itself, which is a tour de force of sound and visual fury - he lets the story and the actors take centre stage, while his visual flourishes take a back seat.
Washington well deserves his Oscar nomination playing a highly functioning addict; he still manages to remain hugely charismatic while playing the nastiest character this side of Training Day. Kelly Reilly - best known for being Jude Law's wife in Sherlock Holmes - plays the potential love interest, but is unfortunately saddled with the least interesting section of the movie. Whenever Zemeckis steers away from the crash investigations and into Whitaker's private life, the movie veers too close to becoming a daytime movie about substance abuse. Other little niggles can be found too; the soundtrack is a little too on-the-nose (Washington’s cocaine binge is scored by Black Crowes "Feelin' Alright", for example), and John Goodman's supporting character seems to have wandered in from a completely different movie.
But all in all, Flight is a great director and a great actor both reminding the world that they are still among the best at what they do.