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Fasten your seatbelts

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Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts. We’re looking at a turbulent ride that you will never forget.

“Flight” is an intense and seat-gripping film that is beautifully directed by Robert Zemeckis, who returns to live-action for the first time since 2000’s “Cast Away”. The “Back to the Future” and “Forrest Gump” director has a stellar cast to work with, which is led by the always great Denzel Washington, who is strongly supported by Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle and Kelly Reilly.

“Flight” is a very intricate story about pilot Whip Whitaker (Washington), who is a heavy drinker and drug addict who happens to be piloting during a catastrophic failure that results in his 102-passenger plane crashing. Whip pulls some heroic maneuvers in order to try and save as many people as he can in a plane that seems doomed for total destruction and chaos.

Then “Flight” turns into something else. It is not just about the crash and devastation of it, but it is about the investigation of Whip and how his alcoholism and drug dependency may have come into play in the crash. “Flight” turns into a drama in which we see alcoholism and drug addiction affecting how one’s life can spiral out of control. Whip’s friend, lawyer and a new love interest who is a drug addict (Greenwood, Cheadle and Reilly) try to sober him up and cover up his intoxication while he was flying the plane that crashed as well as trying to get him clean. The story develops into Whip combatting his inner demons, addictions, denial and lying all the while being investigated for whether or not the crash was out of his control or if he had a role in it because of his altered state of mind.

Washington delivers his best performance since “Training Day” and his performance should garner him an Oscar nomination. Washington embodies the persona of a gifted pilot, but that is only a mask for his true self – an addict. Washington exhibits the difficulties that come with being an alcoholic and a drug addict. He does a flawless job in showcasing how the dependency and denial of alcohol have overtaken his life and his control over his life. Washington portrays Whip as someone who continually tries to quit his dependency on alcohol but we see him consistently fail and revert back to his old tendencies.

Washington envelopes the persona of a heroic pilot during the events of the crash and is also able to portray a damaged alcoholic and drug abuser. This is where his acting shines and creates what should result in his nomination of an Oscar. Washington’s dynamic acting is what makes this film feel realistic and it will make you feel like you truly know who Whip is and make you feel for his struggle.

The story and the characters that are intertwined are just fantastic. Zemeckis does an absolutely fabulous job in conveying the story through film and he is able to evoke a whirlwind of emotions to the audience.  Zemeckis has the right balance of destructive dialogue as well as emotionless and numbing images to correspond to Whip’s numbing and destructive addictions. Zemeckis flies us through the stellar special effects of the plane crashing and he directs one of the most intense and nerve-wracking scenes in movie history.

The plane crash sequence in the beginning of the film will send and eerie chill through your bones. The scene itself possesses enough action, devastation and spine-tingling drama for the entire length of the movie. It is a scene that you will not be able to forget once you leave the theatre. The cool composure of Whip is uncanny and the screams and shrieks of the crew and passengers will leave you feeling like you are onboard the plane. That is a sensation that is not easily shaken and one that makes that scene almost unbearable because of how real and life-like it feels. Your heart will race faster and you will hold your breath because of how real Zemeckis has directed this unnerving sequence.

The inevitable crash is one of the most suspenseful scenes ever and can be very unsettling, but it makes for a unique movie going experience. It’s one that not many movies accomplish nowadays with their audience.

Even with the difficulties of the crash scene, the drug and alcohol addiction and the frustration that come with watching this film, “Flight” is a must see film. Washington should receive a an Oscar nomination for his great performance of Whip and Cheadle should also receive an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his equally strong performance as Whip’s lawyer. Zemeckis should also be nominated for Best Director for his fantastic effort and his effort should also help “Flight” soar into the category for Best Picture.

“Flight” does not only deserve this nomination for the great story and actors, but for the way it really grabs and captivates an audience. It’s an experience that will leave an audience member with a vivid recollection of so many scenes.

What separates “Flight” from most films in recent years is its ability to connect and captivate the audience all the while sending a plethora of emotions that make “Flight” an absolutely awesome movie going experience. It is a truly special film and it will hopefully not be snubbed for an Oscar nomination because it has every right to be in contention.

Ryan Sacco can be reached at rsacco@student.umass.edu.

 

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