Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Top Story: Veteran Actor Cronyn Dies
Actor Hume Cronyn, best known for starring in films such as Lifeboat, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Cocoon, died Sunday after battling prostate cancer at the age of 91. He was married to the late Jessica Tandy, who died in 1994, and starring with her in many plays including The Gin Game and Foxfire. Cronyn was the winner of three Emmys, several Tonys and received a supporting actor Oscar nomination for The Seventh Cross (1945).
Harry Potter Books Vanish
Perhaps the anticipation is too much? Nearly 8,000 copies of the new Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix were stolen from a warehouse in Northern England over the weekend, Reuters reports. Police said they were checking a white trailer truck found 20 miles from the warehouse for evidence. Authorities also cautioned any potential recipients of the stolen books not to touch them before the book is released on Saturday. "We want to warn members of the public that if they handle the book between now and Saturday in any way other than legitimately, they may face criminal charges," a spokeswoman told Reuters. Police estimate the haul was worth about around £130,500 ($220,000 in U.S. dollars).
Gilbert Iffy on SAG Re-Election
At a press conference Monday, Screen Actors Guild president Melissa Gilbert said she may not run again as the guild's leader, especially if the proposed merger between SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is voted down by members early next month. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gilbert expressed confidence that the voting members will approve the controversial merger, which requires 60 percent approval. "Overwhelmingly I am hearing a positive response," she said.
Actress Beckinsale Engaged
British thesp Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor) has become engaged to director Len Wiseman, who recently directed the actress in her upcoming movie Underworld, Reuters reports. On the syndicated show Access Hollywood, Wiseman said he popped the question on Saturday at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., and filled their hotel suite full of Beckinsale's favorite flower, lilies, to celebrate.
CSI Star Weds Longtime Girlfriend
William Peterson, known for his starring role in CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, married his longtime girlfriend, former schoolteacher Gina Cirrone, in a weekend ceremony in Italy, The Associated Press reports.
Maui Film Festival Fetes Hopkins
At the Maui Film Festival's closing ceremony Friday, Adrien Brody accepted the festival's Silversword Award on behalf of winner Anthony Hopkins, who was unable to attend, AP reports. The festival said the Silversword "honors a special film artist for their contributions to the art of filmmaking and their personal commitment to effect positive change in the world." Other festival award winners included director Rob Reiner, Kate Hudson, Luke Wilson and Geena Davis.
Role Call: Malkovich as Kubrick, Star Trek's Blalock Does Slow Burn
John Malkovich is set to star in the black comedy Color Me Kubrick. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film is based on a true story about a man who conned his way into London's high life by pretending to be the late and reclusive director Stanley Kubrick during the time Kubrick was making his last film Eyes Wide Shut…Jolene Blalock of UPN's Enterprise is heading toward to the big screen to star opposite LL Cool J and Ray Liotta in Slow Burn. The story centers on a politically ambitious district attorney (Liotta) who enters a 24-hour showdown with a powerful gang leader only to find he is being manipulated by a beautiful assistant district attorney (Blalock) and an enigmatic stranger (LL Cool J).