Monday, September 23, 2013

DVD of the Week: Flight

I'm growing quite fond of my "aca-scuse me?" tag, which i'm using to denote films that turn out to be better than they have any right to be on paper. Its an odd phenomenon, where a big sack of cinematic cliches can be elevated by cast, or script, or direction, into something much better, just as it's opposite ("Wolfpunching") can take a potentially great sounding idea and render it something much less fun than it should be. The latest example of this is, of course, this weeks DVD of the Week, Flight, or the Best Damn TV Movie You'll Ever See.

The story of Flight is visible from the very earliest scenes, as we see booze- and coke-addled pilot Denzel Washington strut around as the king of the skies, counterpointed by down-and-out heroin addict Kelly Reilly getting OD'd in her grotty apartment. Yes, arrogance and pride will be torn out, and the regular religious imagery (and religious supporting cast) lay it on thick with the idea of redemption through surrender to a higher power. Flight is many things, but subtle isn't one of them and neither, frankly, is originality. But I come to praise Flight, not to bury it.

The film is at it's most gripping during the opening half-hour's plane-crash sequence, which is pretty much flawless; characters are quickly and economically set up, the accident itself is a mix of terrifying mechanical whines and tears along with clearly barked dialogue that finds time to insert human character moments in amongst the mayhem. It gets you invested quickly, manages to set the ball rolling on the movies denouement without raising a flag over it, and is generally just a fantastic peice of cinema that is rivetting to watch. The rest of film is all downhill from there.

But it's a gentle downhill - with the shape of the film setup, there is are very few unexpected pockets of turbulence along the way. What carries it is everything but the story - the cast, which is stuffed full of great character actors giving their all; the script, which is sharp and elegant by turns, and the Robert Zemekis' direction, which is assured and gives the performances time to breathe. Like I say, its not subtle in its use of imagery (and I'd imagine it played well in "Bible Country") but never - quite - overwhelmingly so.

So in the final analysis, Flight gets filed under that group of films that does something you'll definately have seen before, but does it extremely well. It's a pleasure just to watch something that well crafted, even if you know what its going to look like before it's finished, and in many ways its an object lesson in what a difference top-notch actors can make to a story!. So, here's to you, Flight - it was tricky job but you pulled it off, and I'll always have time for that.