Film review: Flight

If you've ever checked the pilot of a flight to see whether they had a big night, it's possibly not a good idea to see Flight.

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood
Rating: (R16)
4 stars (out of 5) 

Packing on the pounds and looking every bit the lounge lizard, Denzel Washington is pilot William ''Whip'' Whitaker. With a weakness for flight attendants, Class A stimulants and alcohol, it's going to take some pilot to function under such substance abuse, but Whip isn't any ordinary pilot.

He's a dreadful alcoholic in denial. Supplementing his cocaine breakfast with an in-flight vodka, Whip soon finds himself at the helm of a broken plane. Heading to the dirt at a great rate of knots, his instinct kicks in and he convinces his kooky co-pilot to pull off a piece of flying that should have been in director Robert Zemeckis' early Back to the Future films.

Aside from the slightly congested opening third where parallel lines of action are forcibly thrown together, Flight is a riveting ride, owing to Washington's cocky vulnerability. Barely hanging on to life by his deluded heroics, Whip is the character you want to cheer for, but he is also only one drink away from total carnage.

Flight doesn't always conform to the type of dramatic stereotypes and over-reliance on effects that Zemeckis is known for either. Borrowing a little from his personal interest in aviation and addiction, Flight's strength is a script that doesn't proselytise and Denzel Washington's fantastic performance.

Best thing: John Goodman's wickedly amusing cameo as drug dealer Harling Mays.

Worst thing: Not finding room in the script for more Goodman magic.

See it with: No need to get on a plane in a hurry.

By Mark Orton.