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'Flight' takes Film Fans on sky-high adventure

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FILE - This publicity film image released by Paramount Pictures shows Denzel Washington portraying Whip Whitaker in a scene from "Flight." Washington plays an airline pilot who, despite being hung-over, drunk and coked-up, manages to bring down a rapidly deteriorating plane in a daring emergency landing on what should have been a routine flight between Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta. Alcohol plays a prominent role in "Flight," but Anheuser-Busch says it wasnit consulted beforehand and is asking the filmmakers and Paramount Pictures to remove the Budweiser logo and any other trademarks from the film.(AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Robert Zuckerman)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Film Fans features local resident reviewing the movie of the week: "Flight." Want to be a film fan? Email features@gwinnettdailypost.com.

3 out of 4 stars

"Flight" is a very good movie that shows the effects of addiction on a media hero and the effect that has on the people around him. One should go see the movie for Denzel Washington's performance alone. There will most assuredly be Oscar talk when the time comes. He plays at different times during the movie a loner, a hero, an addict, a father, a boyfriend, a friend and an ex-husband, all with mesmerizing results.

The opening plane ride should not be seen by the faint of heart. The camera work practically puts you on the plane and shows you the passengers and crews reactions throughout the ordeal. Director Robert Zemeckis has crafted a very good film that should be seen by all adult movie goers. The movie tends to focus more on Washington's character's addictions than on the investigation into the crash. This is also where the movie is at its best.

-- Mark Weinstein, Lawrenceville

2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

Denzel Washington (Whip Whitaker) commands a strong performance in "Flight," which begins in a nose dive, and drags you through the mire of a life wasted by addictions. The film also stars Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle and John Goodman, as the outrageously over-the-top friend/drug dealer. Director Robert Zemeckis did a good job with the crash scenes, which was indicative of the fingernail marks on my movie buddy's arm.

Whip is a brilliant pilot who's equally great at flying as he is at covering up his addictions. You'll be horrified at his pre-flight routine: swills of last night's beer, hits of marijuana, lines of cocaine and plenty of liquor -- just moments before strutting down the jet-way and climbing into the pilot's seat. Whip is so adept at swaggering through lies, he makes an announcement to the passengers, holding the microphone in one hand, while expertly preparing a super-sized screwdriver with the other hand. Whip's life is a mixture of whiskey, vodka, beer, cocaine, lies and false bravado.

"Flight" is an exasperating analysis of a life spiraling out of control. Will he cave to his dependency or will he pull it out before he crash lands his life for the last time? Just don't look for "Flight" to be played as an in-flight movie.

-- Myra Simons, Buford

3 out of 4 stars

I may never fly again. I'm sure most of the thousands who flocked to the theaters to check out "Flight" last week just might be thinking the same thing after witnessing the most intense, visceral crash scene to ever tear through a movie screen.

Director Robert Zemeckis has made his name off of pushing the limits of movie making technology. He is responsible for visually arresting and endearing movies like "Forrest Gump" and "Back to the Future." He's also responsible for almost 10 years of 3-D animation films like "The Polar Express." Some critics have panned the dead-eye look of the animated characters in these more recent Zemeckis films. None of those charges stick with what may be the year's best dramatic performance from Denzel Washington, who is masterful as Whip, the would-be hero pilot of a doomed plane he manages to steer to safety -- saving the lives of almost all of the "souls" on board.

The crash takes place in the first 30 minutes of the film and what follows is the slow burn of a tale of brokenness, addiction and salvation. It is an engrossing character study of a man caught in a web of his own lies and addiction. The film offers no easy answers to the moral quandaries it presents, and that makes it a fascinating two and a half hours.

The movie goes so far out of its way to showcase the flaws in Washington's character that it seems he has little redeeming qualities; some in the audience seemed to be rooting for his failure. Zemeckis throws the emotional kitchen sink at Washington's character: drug and alcohol addiction, divorce, estrangement from family and isolation. It all feels a bit over the top, but Washington carries it and packs it with emotional dynamite. It's worth seeing for Washington's acting and the buzzed-about crash scene. Warning: Zemeckis earns his first "R" rating since 1980, so don't expect the sweetness or family-friendliness of "Back to the Future."

-- Jeremy D. Beauchamp, Lawrenceville