I was pretty sure that Daniel Day Lewis had a lock on the Oscar for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, but that was only until I finally had the chance to see Denzel Washington’s performance in Flight last night.
Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) shows up for work to pilot a short routine commercial flight after a night of boozing and drugging. Whitaker has apparently been doing this for years and he can fly in his sleep (which he does), but when the plane starts to disintegrate in midair, extraordinary measures must be taken. In one of film-makings all time crash scenes, Whitaker manages to guide the plane into a field and saves all but four passengers and two of the crew members.
Whitaker is now hailed as a hero by the media, until toxicology reports indicate the he was on cocaine and alcohol at the time of the crash. With FAA investigators hot on his tail, Whitaker’s union rep (Bruce Greenwood) brings in a lawyer (Don Cheadle), who has a hard time explaining to his delusional client that he can go to jail for the rest of his life. Whitaker feels that he is the only pilot alive who could have guided the plane to relative safety, and based on a test of other pilots on a flight simulator by the FAA under similar circumstances, he is probably right; but that is not going to stop lead prosecutor (Melissa Leo) from locking him up.
Director Robert Zemickis’ Flight is a powerful character study of substance abuse that is pulled off in a frightening performance by Washington. The facial expressions of temporary euphoria and angst caused by the drug addiction are painted on his face, in what may be, his best performance ever. This is a must see before the Oscars.
Reviewers Note: John Goodman plays a small, but entertaining role as Whitaker’s cocaine dealer.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Take Offs.