A long time ago, there was a director who used to deliver a mixture of fun and thoughtful films. They, although very different, all had one thing in common - they were all live action.
Then Robert Zemeckis decided to champion the art of mo-cap and from 2000 all his films were centred around this technology - The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol. Now, he has come "Back From The Future" to revisit his old stomping ground of powerful stories aided by visual effects.
But this is no Forrest Gump or Castaway. Not by a long shot. Just like his one time mentor / collaborator Spielberg, Zemeckis appears to have grown up and moved into the realm of mature film making.
Here we have such ingredients as sex, drugs, alcohol, lies and loss of life. Plus a whole load of faith as well. And to bring this maturity to the screen he has seeked out the help of Mr Maturity himself, Denzel Washington. The actor who helped give creditability to such fare as Tony Scott's style-over-substance efforts, gets once again the chance to show why his name is synonymous with award nominations and winning - but without his usual Al Pacino-esque shouting that accompanied him in Training Day etc.
Washington has the unenviable task of playing a hated hero. His pilot is so much more than a flawed character. The implication seems to be that it's not that he managed to safely land the plane despite being drunk and drugged up, but that those intoxication's may have actually helped him to do so - keeping him high and alert helped him to do what 10 other pilots after the crash couldn't achieve in a simulator. Those pilots killed all the passengers and crew aboard their simulated planes whereas Washington's real life crash only loses 6 out of the 102 souls on board. Redeeming qualities are hard to come by for him. Just when you think he's going on the straight and narrow, the drink calls again and any feeling of sympathy for him from the viewer that has begun to build up, is then lost. This is eloquently shown in a scene nearing the films ending involving a minibar vodka bottle where Zemeckis leaves the camera, and the audience, static and waiting to observe the outcome.
With this being pretty much a Washington one man show, the co-stars, like the plane, get to take flight for a short while but then crash out of sight. Goodman is one of the few that leaves any impression on the audience and that is due to his larger-than-life drug supplier character who, with his two appearances, does a swift "pick me up" to both Washington's frazzled pilot and the viewers as well during the films running time. Cheadle as the lawyer who defends Washington somewhat begrudgingly - an alcoholic that never-the-less pulls off a miracle by saving almost all of the passengers and crew - feels like he had a much meatier role but maybe due to time constraints has found some of it lying on the cutting room floor.
Overall, a welcome return to non-mo cap from Zemeckis, Flight is a decent flawed hero film that does leave you guessing whether its central character will ever do the right thing, right up the official hearing finale.
UK release date: 01.02.13