Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2012. Paramount Pictures, ImageMovers, Parkes+MacDonald Image Nation. Screenplay by John Gatins. Cinematography by Don Burgess. Produced by Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis. Music by Alan Silvestri. Production Design by Nelson Coates. Costume Design by Louise Frogley. Film Editing by Jeremiah O’Driscoll. Academy Awards 2012. Golden Globe Awards 2012. National Board of Review Awards 2012. Washington Film Critics Awards 2012.
Denzel Washington is a coke-snorting, booze-guzzling airline pilot whose excellent track record easily covers up his bad habits and helps him forget the trouble he left behind when he lost his marriage and son to his addictions. A mechanical fault on a plane he is flying across the country nearly crashes the vessel except that his skill in the captain’s seat achieves an amazing rescue that sees the plane land with a minimum number of injuries and fatalities. That crash is also achieved impeccably well by the filmmaking team, who under Robert Zemeckis’ direction combine the highest achievements in editing, sound and special effects to pull off a dazzling, heart-stopping sequence that well outdoes the similar (and also wonderful) crash at the beginning of Cast Away twelve years earlier (you will truly believe that a plane is flying upside down). What follows, unfortunately, is not nearly as captivating, as Washington is put through the wringer when his post-crash blood tests come back positive for substances and his judgment is called into question, even when it is proven that he dealt with faulty engineering beyond his control. A subplot that sets up Kelly Reilly as an addict who parallels his journey is wasted, given plenty of set-up before she is relegated to a throwaway girlfriend role. It’s a surprisingly mundane experience given how good the premise is, and despite Washington’s best efforts to give the character so much charisma, the movie is flat and forgettable.