This was unfortunately one of the movies I wasn’t able to catch before the Oscar ceremonies. Somehow I just missed it when it was playing. The plot revolves around Captain Whip Whitaker(Denzel Washington), an airline pilot who miraculously lands a crashing plane in a manner that saves a lot of lives. But somebody has to pay for the few lives that were lost in the crash. And in the course of the investigation, Whip’s alcoholism and drug addiction is brought to light, and the question of his substance abuse’s involvement in the crash takes the forefront.
Denzel Washington gives one of the finest performances of his career(sorry, this performance ain’t got shit on Alonzo Harris!). This movie would have been well and dandy without him, but his performance completely elevates the film. He balances the darker aspects of his character with his admirable traits masterfully. He is completely believable and a marvel to watch as the boozy troubled pilot and was well-deserving of his nomination. Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, and Bruce Greenwood all turn in admirable supporting performances as well. But there are two real standouts here among the supporting turns. 1. James Badge Dale shows up for a one-scene wonder performance as a cancer patient who takes about God and fate with Whip and Nicole(Kelly Reilly) in the hospital. 2. John Goodman. Any other year he would have scored a nomination for his role as Whip’s friend/drug dealer Harling Mays. Imagine John Goodman playing “The Dude” but with a real sort of paranoia about him. It’s fantastic to watch, and he absolutely steals each scene he’s in.
It’s very nice to have Robert Zemeckis back in live-action. He was in the muddled forest of Motion capture for far too long, turning in mediocre-at-best films. Here he is in great control of the story, and his direction is firm(that coke-snorting shot at the beginning lived up to the hype). I also have to give props to the editing, as there were many moments that stood out to me where they chose to stay on Denzel rather than simply do a routine cut to someone else. It was done with great effect, and greatly showcased Denzel’s performance.
Although at times this film drifted a little to far into a PSA for the dangers of Alcoholism rather then going more original places, it’s still a very fine film and Denzel is absolutely marvelous in it.