Blu-ray Review: Flight

The first live-action film from director Robert Zemeckis since Castaway twelve years ago, Flight is a movie about addiction that manages to include all of the elements of the genre while finding an innovative and powerful way to tell the story. Flight gets rolling with a visceral and intense plane crash sequence. Pilot William “Whip” Whittaker (Denzel Washington) had woken up the morning of that fateful flight in pretty rough shape, fighting a hangover with more alcohol and few lines of cocaine. Whip is taking a nap in the cockpit when the plane suddenly goes into free fall.

Whip does the impossible, turning the jumbo jet upside down, stabilizing it enough to glide to the ground. While the crash is terrible, most survive with only six fatalities. Occurring early in the story, the flight sequences are some of the most intense moments of the entire film. Even though you already know the outcome, viewers won’t be able to help but be on the edge of their seats. Watching Whip’s incredible calm under pressure gives us reason to root for him in his battle against addiction.

FlightThe media calls Whip a hero, but it’s only a matter of time before the NTSB uncovers his coke and booze fueled bender just hours before the crash. The airline goes into overdrive determined to protect Whip. If news gets out that Whip was under the influence during the crash, he could face life in prison.

As a hearing before the National Transportation Safety Board approaches, Whittaker approaches all his surviving colleagues, looking for someone to testify that he wasn’t drunk on the day of the crash. He’s also taking regular meeting with longtime friend and pilots union representative Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and his lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) who gets the toxicology report quashed. Both men want to get Whip through the hearing with his career intact. They both begin to understand the scope of his addiction when Whip can’t stay sober, despite their harshest warnings.

Flight isn’t an action film, but rather one man’s journey into his soul. It’s an uncomfortable trip—it becomes obvious that the only reason so many may have survived the crash is the fact that Whip was in an inebriated state. As a result, he disregarded a pilot’s usual caution and careful training to try a reckless maneuver that ultimately proves the difference between a tragedy of monumental proportions and a miracle. Even so, Whip Whittaker is obviously a highly functioning alcoholic and drug addict who can barely function when not working. He’s not someone you’d want in the cockpit; it just happened to work out here.

At over two hours, Zemeckis’ film is a bit long. Too much time is spent on a subplot involving a drug addict named Nicole (Kelly Reilly) whose story runs parallel to Whip’s until the two of them meet and try to redeem each other. But, while Flight isn’t perfect, Denzel Washington’s performance will move you in ways you might not expect.

Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Paramount’s 1080p transfer is fabulous. Digitally photographed, detail is brilliant throughout. Facial textures and all other surfaces are very revealing—pores on faces and wrinkles on shirts, small things on the planes instrument panel, etc. are easy to spot. Likewise, colors are fantastic. The palette is undeniable rich, even in darker scenes. Bleeding, fading, or over-saturation is nowhere to be found. There are also no digital anomalies.

Flight‘s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack impresses in every scene. The jet engines sound natural. Obviously, the track shines during the big crash; blaring alarms, pilot chatter and the rest make you feel like you’re right there in the cabin. As the plane hits the ground, we are pulled into the chaos. Powerful bass rattles the room with solid, deep elements. Beyond that, the track handles quieter ambient sounds equally well. Dialogue is delivered clearly from the center channel and stretch around the soundfield. This is a soundtrack that delivers whatever elements arew need when called upon.

English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles are available.

The following special features are included:

  • Origins of Flight (HD, 10:29)  Writer John Gatins, Director Robert Zemeckis, Actors Bruce Greenwood and Denzel Washington, and Producer Steve Starkey discuss the film’s beginnings, characters, casting and more.
  • The Making of Flight (HD, 11:31) Director Robert Zemeckis; Actors Denzell Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, and Brian Geraghty; Writer John Gatins; Producer Steve Starkey; Flight Trainer Larry Goodrich; Production Designer Nelson Coates; and Aircraft Mock-Up Provider Dave Scroggins discuss the cast, Washington’s preparations for the role, substance abuse in the film, the sets construction and more.
  • Anatomy of a Plane Crash (HD, 7:46) Writer John Gatins, Director Robert Zemeckis, Producer Steve Starkey, Production Designer Nelson Coates, Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Baillie, Stunt Coordinator Charles Croughwell, Actor Denzel Washington, and Writer John Gatins discuss the films visual effects and how the plane crash was done to look as realistic as possible.
  •  Q&A Highlights(HD, 14:18) The Los Angeles Times’ John Horn hosts cast and crew (without an ill Denzel Washington) for a Q&A session.   
  • UV Digital Copy.
  • DVD Copy.

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