Right from the start of Flight, I wondered why it's been so long since I've seen a Denzel Washington movie. As an actor, I love his casual intensity, his veneer of calm and that gaze that simultaneously charms and warns. He's perfectly cast in this Robert Zemeckis drama about an airline pilot whose heroics at landing a malfunctioning aircraft are complicated by his hard-partying lifestyle and addictions. After the tensely and thrillingly executed first 25 minutes had passed, and Flight began focusing on the issues following the crash, however, I remembered why I have seen so few Washington movies since the mid-1990s: he stars in generally uninteresting movies with little to say beyond the platitudes of made-for-Lifetime Channel melodramas. Following that slick first act, Flight recycles cliches with unforgiving intensity, and Zemeckis phones in everything from the tired baby boomer music cues to the confessional climax that ends with, I kid you not, a dolly-in on a single tear rolling down Washington's cheek. As handsomely produced as it is, Flight would have seemed trite in 1991. Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood languish in straight-man roles, but the rest of the cast is a nightmare of one-dimensional tropes and insipidly showy flourishes, including John Goodman as a quirky dealer (music cue: Sympathy for the Devil). Zemeckis is like the second-fiddle star athlete of a championship team: technically, he's flawless — the crash sequence is a spectacular nail-biter — but he lacks the inspiration to run a game, and needs teammates who are his equals or better to pull out a win.
Flight was brought to my Potluck Film Fest by Flickcharter Nigel Druitt. He ranks it on his chart at #176 / 1724 (90%), making it his second favorite of 22 movies starring Denzel Washington. Flight ranked on my Flickchart at #2483 (36%), putting it at #11 out of 16 on my Denzel Washington chart.