Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo

The age of movie stars is over.  Can you think of larger-than-life actors or actresses in their 20s and 30s?  I certainly can't.  There's nobody with that X factor.  The glory days of mega stars like Will Smith, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt are in the rear view mirror.  While they're all still active and making good movies, the next generation has not stepped up to the plate, and this is becoming more and more noticeable at the box office.  It also makes films by big time stars that much more worthwhile.  One aging movie star who's been a pretty consistent presence on the big screen is Denzel Washington.  After Safe House earlier this year, he's now back with a more serious film in Robert Zemeckis's Flight.

For Captain Whip Whitaker (Washington), it's been an ordinary day.  He's got a hangover from some drinking last night with stewardess Katerina Marquez (Nadine Velasquez).  He's got a flight this morning to Atlanta and takes some cocaine to get him up to the task.  He even decides to have a few drinks before the flight.  However, it's no ordinary day.  Unbeknownst to him or any of his crew, his aircraft has some serious mechanical issues, and they're going to go into a nearly irreversible nosedive and crash.  Miraculously, Whitaker manages to save 96 of the 102 lives aboard flight 227.

It is standard procedure for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate a plane crash and identify the cause of the crash.  At the outset, they take blood samples of all crew members.  The results of the blood tests clearly show that Whip and Katerina had some alcohol and other drugs in their systems.  While the obvious cause of the crash is mechanical failure, a witch hunt has now begun to pin the crash on Whip, whose blood alcohol concentration was at 0.24% the day of the crash.  With the help of union representative Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), Whip plans on fighting the NTSB on this matter.  He has a bigger fight looming though — a fight within himself to overcome his alcoholism.

As Whip Whitaker, Denzel Washington has come back to the business of making serious movies with a particular focus on alcoholism.  After enduring Washington's B movies such as The Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable, and Safe House, it's great to see him back on his A-game.  I have to say that he brings tremendous depth to the character of Whitaker.  You can see it in every move he makes (especially with a cane) and every bottle he breaks.  You can sense it in the raging, tormented alcoholic he brings to life in such a profound and mesmerizing way.  You can feel it in the emotional gravitas he brings to the character of Whip.  Overall, Washington gives a towering performance that probably won’t go unnoticed as the awards season rolls around over the next several months.

While Washington brings a powerful depiction of addiction to Flight, the supporting cast mostly brings levity and comic relief to the film.  John Goodman's crazy Harling Mays is Whip's friend who's always loaded with something to keep the party going.  Don Cheadle's Hugh Lang is a fast-talking lawyer with a lot of witty remarks.  Finally, James Badge Dale's cancer patient offers some wise words on God and random chance, but he also offers quite a bit of perverted and self-deprecating humor as he hits on Kelly Reilly's Nicole Maggen and jokes about life in the cancer ward.  All in all, these guys definitely bring the laughs.

Director Robert Zemeckis may have outdone himself this time around.  While the crash in Cast Away was splendid, he takes things to a whole new level with a commercial aircraft in Flight.  The whole scene was suspenseful, jarring, and utterly satisfying.  The camera work is incredible during this scene.  Zemeckis keeps the visuals just as turbulent and shaky as the failing aircraft itself.  With that, it feels like we're actually in the crash while watching this scene.  Consequently, the suspense is greater, and the crash has an authenticity unlike any other plane crash we've seen to date on the big screen.

Flight is one hell of a movie.  It's an old school film that showcases one of the last true movie stars in Denzel Washington.  It's a film where the supporting cast is constantly bringing the laughs.  It's a film that challenges director Robert Zemeckis to outdo himself and the elaborate plane crash he concocted in his survival drama Cast Away.  Having seen the film, I can say that all these things and more are fully realized in Flight.  There's just one problem.  The screenplay is entirely too predictable.  You can call every major event probably 15 to 20 minutes before it happens.  While that doesn't take too much away from Washington, Zemeckis, or the supporting cast, this predictability does ensure that this drama won't get a sober rating.  Flight gets a solid 0.03% rating.  Have a few wine coolers with this one.