Robert Zemeckis has had some improbable successes in his career. Forrest Gump’s Best Picture Oscar: who saw that coming? And who else believed Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a good idea, before he proved it was?
So you can see why he’s spent the past decade ignoring everyone who’s told him his motion-capture animation technique produces dead-eyed dross (Beowulf, A Christmas Carol). And you can see why he might choose to return to the live-action fold via something as unlikely as a downbeat-issue movie in action-heroics drag. Denzel Washington as a substance-abusing pilot who saves a plane-load of passengers from disaster while high on cocaine, and then implodes under the strain of the subsequent investigation: you think that’s box-office poison? Watch me prove that the road less travelled leads to the gold in them thar hills.
Alas, it’s fool’s gold. But although this messy, preachy film has to be judged a failure, it fails more engagingly than some more polished films “succeed”. Washington is grizzled, intense, catnip to the camera; the plane crash and its aftermath are masterful, particularly for their use of noise and silence; and John Goodman is way too much fun as Washington’s dope peddler for Zemeckis’s po-faced 12-step storyline to survive him. These unlikely, vivid highlights are worth a worse film than this one.
FLIGHT, directed by Robert Zemeckis
Films are rated out of 5: 1 = abysmal; 5 = amazing