Movie Review: Flight – Stellar Performances and Clever, Studied Direction

Flight is a terrific piece of film-making and a morality play from one of the masters of the craft. Robert Zemeckis puts everything on the table here, including originality, something one doesn’t see in mainstream motion pictures too often these days. With “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones playing throughout one of the trailers the internal and the external chaos that are the foundation of this movie are delicately put in a two and a half minute YouTube. As I told Bob Zemeckis during an interview for this film the late Jimmy Miller, producer for Traffic and The Rolling Stones, would be most pleased with the inclusion of his tracks “Sympathy For The Devil” and the aforementioned “Shelter” from the Stones as well as Traffic’s rendition of Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright”. “Alright” appears at the beginning courtesy of Joe Cocker, then we get Denzel Washington doing his version on the plane sans band, and Traffic’s over the closing credits.

The acting is superb, Tamara Tunie going upside down (quite literally) from her role 15 years ago in The Devil’s Advocate, Don Cheadle simply amazing as attorney Hugh Lang with well-known actors John Goodman and Bruce Greenwood so into their craft they are hardly recognizable in their roles of drug dealer Harling Mays and union rep Charlie Anderson, respectively.

Love interest Kelly Reilly as Nicole channels her best Sandra Bullock as she overdoses on smack to the strains of Cowboy Junkies performing Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.” The soundtrack is a total delight while the story twists and turns but keeps your attention during the whopping one hundred and thirty-nine minutes (2 hours, 19 minutes). Along with the ethical questions and the poker games played by the government and corporate machineries in place comes the unspoken query – does serious substance and alcohol abuse bring out gifts in certain individuals that wouldn’t ordinarily exist without a little help from those “friends?”

John Goodman’s Harling Mays character certainly thinks so and perhaps being married to Roseanne all those years on tv would drive someone to enter into a universe that is totally out of control.

Zemeckis controls the chaos, drives the lens right into the personality storms, and though we see Captain William “Whip” Whitaker straddling the fence, so beyond redemption and so cool, calm and collected, the one aspect of the movie that this writer ponders is if someone can be that together while being so off the deep-end. Drinking and making music is one thing, drinking and driving an airplane, especially with security and airline awareness so prevalent these days, is the one part of Flight that had me suspending belief.

The 31 million dollar epic looks like it cost 169 million more, it’s a wonderfully filmed drama which folds the tough story inside stellar performances and clever, studied direction. Recommended and worth seeing a couple or few times on the big screen.

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for,, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.