It was Summer 2009, and I was awaiting the release of Brüno. I watched every goddamn clip and every goddamn trailer I could get my hands on, I was obsessed. Borat was a pivotal film for me and Brüno was just another hit off the crack pipe, and I consumed every ounce of released material. July 10th came (or somewhere close to that), I saw it with my mom (a story for another day), and I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Why? Because basically every funny bit in the film, I had already seen in a red-band trailer, green-band trailer, or from clips, talk shows or whatever else. I recognized it was a funny film, but I knew all the jokes and punchlines before they came. Ever since I stepped out of the theatre on that fateful day, I vowed to never watch another trailer, clip, or read another synopsis ever again. We’re nearing the end of 2012, and I’ve still held that promise, and have never regretted a single day of it. What does this have to do with Flight, you may ask, well, I’ll tell you.
Denzel Washington’s been starring in some semi-shit movies of late. Well, not entire shit, but films that are enjoyable, but nowhere close to his skill and talent-level. Because, I don’t watch trailers, clips or whatever for upcoming films, I saw the poster for Flight, heard Denzel was in it, he was playing a pilot and assumed it was just another bullshit action flick like Denzel’s been making for the past few years, in the vein of Safe House, Unstoppable and The Book Of Eli. Then something weird happened a few days ago, I stumbled on some talk about Denzel possibly being in consideration for being nominated for an Oscar for this film, and I was like whatttttt?!?!?! I read some more and found out this film was nothing like what I thought it was, it wasn’t a dumb action film, but rather a crafted drama and character study of an alcoholic dealing with the fallout of a crash landing.
That’s my favourite part of avoiding trailers, clips and synopses, I really don’t entirely know what I’m getting myself into when I see a new film, and Flight was the perfect example where I didn’t know what to expect, and it was all the better for it. It starts like an action film though, there’s a goddamn phenomenal scene within the first 15 minutes, which is really the only action scene of the entire 135 minute or so film, where the plane that Washington is flying is going down and he has to stop it. He’s drunk at the time, but he’s the goddamn man, and we’ve hardly got to know any of these characters, but you’re on the edge of your seat. They’re going down, Denzel tells Tamara Tunie’s character to tell her son she loves her, for the black box recording, it just kills, and we’re maybe like 20 minutes into the film. Following the crash, everything ascends (or descends, depending who you talk to) as Washington’s character Whitaker is a hero for saving all these lives in the face of the crash, but is being investigated for his possible drunk and alcoholic misconduct that possibly was at fault for the crash.
Whenever, I’m watching a good film, or a great actor do work, I always focus squarely on the face, and love to read reactions directly off their expressions. I usually focus on the eyes as they tend to be the most expression filled and vocal (in a visual way), but Denzel Washington’s mouth stole the show. Yeah, you heard me, Denzel’s mouth and jaw out-acted like 90% of the actors of the past year. He’s an alcoholic, you see, he’s fidgety, he stumbles through words and sentences, and his mouth contorts and stretches to show you even more of his soul and feelings than his eyes ever could. It’s obviously a choice by Washington and it works phenomenally, his ticks add even more to the character and it’s a master class. I could talk about how outstanding Washington is in this film for days, I miss this Denzel and am dumbly surprised he still has this in him, but of course he does. Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors of the past twenty years, and sadly some of his recent decisions have clouded this, but he’s still the goddamn man.
This is Robert Zemeckis’ first live-action film since Castaway in 2000, and he never flaunts it or does some dumb camera work that distracts from the drama of the filmic content. The only scenes that show any distinguishable flair are a few of the “intake of drugs” scenes where he does a super cool quick-zoom or extreme close-up, but other than that he remains un-obstructive. What I love about Zemeckis’ camera work in this film, is that he just lets the camera exist. It floats in scenes like a voyeur and eventually finds itself to a focal point or symbol to anchor the scene, but it’s largely just hanging out. It doesn’t really feel like a typical Zemeckis film, but what really is that even anymore?
I’ll probably criticize the end for being to after-school and too pat, where everything was wrapped up and resolved too neatly, even though I knew from the beginning that this was the type of ending we would get. I’ll probably also criticize Robert Zemeckis for seemingly thinking Joe Cocker and The Rolling Stones are the only music artists who ever lived, but there’s so much lead by Washington’s performance that makes this void, no matter how sweet and “hitting at the heartstrings” it may be. Great film, Denzel is the man, Flight probably isn’t the film you’re thinking it is (I haven’t really seen how they’re promoting it, but I assume it’s more “actiony” than “dramatic”), but, oh jeez, there’s all kinds of great stuff happening in here, from acting, camera work, and subject matter that lend a lot of credence. So, basically just watch this film for the acting prowess of Denzel Washington’s mouth, zero regrets.