How badass is Denzel Washington? According to Flight - director Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film in 12 years after making a trio of lousy CGI features - so badass that while drunk at triple the limit he was able to safely crash-land an airliner resulting in only 6 fatalities out of 102 on board. So badass that 10 sober pilots given the scenario in simulators couldn't save the plane; everyone would've died if these guys were at the controls. So what's the problem, ossifer? Can't DW have some booze and blow and then save 94% of the people on his plane without people being critical? He's like Dr. Johnny Fever taking a sobriety test, getting better the more he drinks!
The reason Flight never actually takes off (har!) is that despite a raft of strong performances from Denzel and company, every single beat of the plot is predictable to anyone who's ever seen a movie-of-the-week about substance abuse or has been following Lindsay Lohan's career for the past five years. The denial, the half-assed attempts to clean up followed by falling off the Budweiser beer wagon, the woman who is also an addict who can't be with him anymore - a underwritten, why-is-she-here role played decently by Kelley Riley - the final bender leading to pseudo-redemption; it's all by the numbers and has no surprises up its sleeve.
There are a couple of tone issues I had as well. First, John Goodman's drug dealer character is played way too much for laughs; when you're trying to explore the depths of despair an in-denial drunk is plumbing, should you be yucking it up with a scene showing the best method to sober up a drunk is several rails of coke? Also, the song choices on the soundtrack are so on the nose that I began to wonder if this was some sort of ironic joke. Really? The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" playing before and during the scene of Reilly's junkie shooting up? A Muzak version of "With A Little Help From My Friends" after Denzel has been bumped into shape by Dr. Feelgood? Pfffft.
The plane crash sequence is harrowing and any movie which opens with full nudity from Nadine Velazquez, who looks like this...
...isn't totally without merit, but while Flight never crashes, it also never really soars as intended. Zemeckis is still laboring under the Curse of Oscar where he hasn't made a better-than-average film since he won for Forrest Gump, but compared to his creepy doll-eyed forays into CG animated films with The Polar Express, Beowulf, and Jim Carrey's A Christmas Carol (which I haven't seen), it's good to see him back in the land of the living. Now get a better script, Z.
Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.