(directed By Robert Zemickis, 2012)
**** (out of 5)
> Hollywood warhorse Robert Zemickis, (FORREST GUMP, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? and many other fine films), proves yet again that he can make stylish, compelling, relevant films, with this crackerjack Denzel Washington vehicle.
. It’s fresh too: a story we have not seen before. (Getting harder to accomplish this with each passing year!) A self-absorbed, swaggering, ego-driven hotshot airline pilot has a dark secret: he is an alcoholic drug user. Convinced he is untouchable, this deeply flawed character routinely shows up stoned or hung-over at work, drinking vodka in orange juice even as he flies commercial jets. He feels immune, as there are never any consequences for his reckless bravado… until one day when his skills and ability as a pilot are the only thing standing between a safe landing and a disastrous crash that could kill everyone on board. But when the dust settles on this intense and horrific action sequence, what will happen when the NTSB sees the results of his hospital bloodwork?
. There are two ways to look at it: does this clearly impaired pilot deserve praise for saving hundreds of lives or condemnation for the handful of fatalities? Everything builds to his big moment on the witness stand. Will he maintain his lifelong denial and hubris under oath, or finally take responsibility for his own addiction? It’s riveting stuff, beautifully executed. As usual, Denzel shines.
. I saw the end coming from a mile away- usually a major flaw. But this time, I saw it coming simply because it was the best, most interesting plot choice. Yes, it strains credulity, and there is no way the ending would have worked with a lesser actor. But it did, thanks to the work of this unusually gifted performer. Supporting actors Don Cheadle and John Goodman are delightful, but then these guys are always wonderful!
. A film about moral choices is a rare film indeed. (The similarly excellent RETURN TO PARADISE comes to mind.) It’s tricky territory that succeeds very well in this solid flick.
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