"Flight" is exciting — terrific, really — because in addition to the sophisticated storytelling techniques by which it keeps us hooked, it doesn't drag audience sympathies around by the nose, telling us what to think or how to judge the reckless, charismatic protagonist played by
Building on a career begun in the pre-digital days of
While I realize he has always made different sorts of pictures, with varying degrees of flash, it's gratifying to find Zemeckis leaving behind the uncanny valley for a couple of hours and showing what he can do with a script that scrambles, brilliantly, the audience's feelings toward a brave and valiant savior with a few things to hide.
Little on the resume of screenwriter
It begins as an ordinary day for Whitaker. He's in Orlando, a few hours away from a routine morning flight back to Atlanta. He and his flight attendant lover (
After the crash landing, only a handful of the plane's passenger and crew end up dead and Whitaker, banged up but alive, becomes a hero. But he knows he was legally drunk when it all happened, to say nothing of the cocaine in his system. He learns that other people know this too, though the news has yet to go public. Whitaker's old friend and union rep (
A younger, less secure Zemeckis — circa 1990, say — might've pumped up the dramatics to the breaking point. Thankfully, the older Zemeckis did not, and in fact he lets some leisurely dialogue sequences in the hospital, and out at Whitaker's late father's farm, establish more than one mood, more than one facet of Whitaker's dilemma.
Time has revealed Zemeckis to be something of a classicist despite his obsession with cinematic technology. Washington, whose face in "Flight" becomes a series of bargains and lies Whitaker tells himself and the outside world, interacts wonderfully with his fellow actors, often with two and three performers sharing the frame for a satisfying length of time. So few directors care about that sort of thing anymore; so few care about choreographing, subtly or showily, the interaction between the camera and the actors without resorting to cutting. (