I’ve always thought it odd that Robert Zemeckis, a man who crafted such classics of the 80s and early 90s, could spiral so rapidly into films that were lifeless hack jobs, failing to capture anything close to the magic he could put to screen in his glory days. Perhaps he became a parody of himself somewhere along the way, for all his Oscar success with Tom Hanks, he soon found himself recycling the same style and formula in the hopes of bagging more favour with those in high places with the Academy Awards. Flight feels like his strongest effort at nudging himself back into the public eye, with Denzel Washington taking centre stage, but this pairing fails to take flight.
Another example of Washington being a superb draw, one who can turn relatively poor quality into watchable content, Flight is exactly that. Watchable. It’s expressionless and doesn’t have much depth to it, a piece that could be thrown away with ease. It’s not anything the film does wrong, it’s simply that it doesn’t set out to do anything right. Nothing here breaks away from the frigid, longstanding mediocrity of Zemeckis’ direction, of which there is plenty to be desired and little to enjoy. Worth it, at the very least, to see Washington offer his co-pilot a hit from the oxygen tank. But this doesn’t do too well in showing the dark, seedy lining of why he’s huffing oxygen in the cockpit of a commercial airliner.
Flight handles addiction rather poorly, both in its professional pilot manner and its struggling-to-stay-clean support. Neither work wholly well, and the opening contrast between functioning addict and living from bump to bump feels rather bland. It’s the Hollywood addiction, a traumatic event that leads to someone shaking the cobwebs off of their brain and getting their act together. But it wouldn’t be a road to recovery without intrepid publicity and a dragged out, blissfully unaware series of events that try and hold themselves together. It uses addiction and emotionally manipulative moments of grief-stricken or ill characters as crutches for a poor narrative, and it’d be rather disgusting to sit through if it weren’t for solid performances. Forgettable, sure, but solid.
This would be completely unwatchable without Washington. Anybody else in such a role would suffer and writhe in melodramatic agony, trying to topple the villainous titan found in its cliché storyline, piling it on thick and fast. As uneasy as I am when it comes to flying, I’m even worse when it comes to boring films loosely based on tragedy. Flight hits all the right notes you’d expect, and doesn’t do anything else to inspire, engage, or interest an audience. Unless you’re wanting a film that doesn’t bother to take risks or want something that’ll inspire a generic light of recovery, then I doubt you’ll get much from Flight.