The great Robert Zemeckis is finally "soaring" back to the future-I mean, back to live-action, ostensibly picking up where he left off with "Cast Away", because I can't help but feel as though if Zemeckis didn't get caught up in all of that silly and creepy-looking cartoonery, then he would have been really obsessed with films about plane crashes. Shoot, maybe Zemeckis is just obsessed with flying in general, in which case, he really was embracing his urges when working on cartoons, because it seemed like all three of his animated films had to have at least one obligatory flying sequence, though never one quite like the crash-landing sequence in this film, which is awesome in its being both safe and over-the-top at the same time. Boy, I'm sure betting that Chuck Noland is wishing that his plane was piloted by Denzel Washington, or at least he would if he was actually real, though that's partially because if they crashed anyways, then Tom Hanks and Washington could enjoy their "Philadelphia" reunion in peace, and Noland would have a quiet black-headed companion to go with the quiet white... and red-headed Wilson. Eh, now that I think about it, Washington is just too darn white to pull that off, so I guess Noland would have to stick with Don Cheadle instead, because he's dark enough to make up for his being so white in personality, and plus, his scalp is actually shaped like a ball. Rather racist jokes aside, it's great to see good ol' Bobby Z, or rather, the other Steven Spielberg back in business, or at least I guess it is, because I can't tell if this is Robert Zemeckis or Marting Scorsese, seeing as how Scorsese seems to be the only person nowadays who uses the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" in his films (Except "Shine a Light", ironically). Shoot, I'm still working on getting used to the fact that people are still using Bruce Greenwood in their films, but hey, Greenwood may as well join this ride, being that it is pretty much the ultimate comeback film. Zemeckis is back to live-action and, for that matter, doing his first R-rated film in 32 years ("Beowulf" was pretty messed up, so it's not like he hasn't been trying), and Denzel Washington is, for the first time in a while, given enough material to remind people of just how awesome of an actor he is, so it's only natural that this film be really good, which isn't to say that the final product "soars" (Is the pun working yet?) like it ought to, as it does indeed face a bit of turbulence.
At about 140 minutes, this film is not simply a bit longer than I expected, but longer than it probably should be, being generally just lengthy enough for you to get a firm grip on the film's compelling substance flesh-out, but nevertheless padded out through a bit of aimlessly excessive material, made all the more glaring, not just by unevenness that leaves certain layers to this story to drag out past their welcome, which may not even present in the first place, but by Robert Zemeckis' intentionally steady pacing, which, as I'll go into later, makes the film's more dramatically meditative moments all the more effective, while making the film's more structurally meandering moments feel even more overdrawn. The film has enough meat to its structure to flesh-out characterization adequately, then pumps in a little bit more meat, and a little bit more meat, until you end up with a film that isn't tremendously overblown, but decidedly fatty around the edges, to where mere meanderings, after a while, descend into repetition that blands things up a bit and thins out a potentially very weighty drama. Don't get me wrong, the final product is heavy enough in its resonance to compel thoroughly and consistently, and even toss in the occasional golden moment, but it ever so unfortunately outstays its welcome, and this kind of excessive dragging, alone, proves to be enough to secure the film short of its full potential, while subtlety issues add insult to injury. Bob Zemeckis has, time and again, proven himself to be capable of battling back Hollywoodisms just enough to craft some upstanding films, yet he has almost always been something of a Hollywood filmmaker, and this film, as genuinely compelling as it is, gets to be a touch too Hollywood, complete with lapses in subtlety, particularly when it comes to the more dramatic spots, which engage much more often than they don't, but all too often plummet into sentimentality. Whether it be through a bit too much dramatic atmosphere reinforcement, or, so help me, some major and often rather overbearing religious overtones (Ah, the scene in which Brian Geraghty's Ken Evans character gives Denzel Washington's Whip Whitaker character a religious speech, sometimes interrupted by Evans' obnoxious wife exclaiming "Praise Jesus", black church style, is so cheesy), the film dilutes some degree of its full dramatic punch around most every corner, not so much so that the final product's emotional resonance falls flat, but certainly to where a bit of superficiality goes pronounced, and with it, the film's other issues. As far as quantity is concerned, there's not a whole lot that's wrong with this film, but when it comes to the immensity of the problems that plague the execution of this very promising project, this is a very flawed film that drags its feet and doesn't quite cut as deeply as I was hoping it would dramatically, thus the final product comes out falling short of its full potential. That being said, while the film doesn't quite take off as a truly upstanding effort, something that we know Bob Zemeckis can deliver on, it is a very rewarding effort, with enough dramatic kick to keep you engaged, as well as enough musical kick to help in keeping you entertained.
As sure as you can't separate Steven Spielberg and John Williams with a brick wall, you can expect the task of keeping Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri apart to be a challenging one, which would be great and all if the Zemeckis-Silvestri music duo was as strong as the Spielberg-Williams music duo, so you shouldn't go into this film expecting Silvestri's score work to be all that upstanding, nor should you expect Silvestri's efforts to even be played up all that much, but when Silvestri's score work does, in fact, come into play, it's still pretty strong in its, albeit conventional, but rather poignant elegance, topped in entertainment value by, of course, the film's mainstream soundtrack, for although this film isn't turning in the barrage of awesome classic tunes that you can't begin to see "Forrest Gump" without, Zemeckis has quite the taste in classic music, as he further proves with this film's soundtrack, which is one of 2012's best, boasting plenty of diverse and enjoyable tunes that at least keep consistent in their being of a classic era and, by extension, with the lively soul that you just don't get with your more relevant Hollywood film soundtracks. A fair bit of the film's entertainment value is driven by its fine and time times, substance-supplementing taste in music, as well as complimented by sharp photographic style, powered by another recurring Zemeckis collaborator, Don Burgess, who, as usual, is delivering on very little in the way of upstanding coloring and lighting, but, with the help of Zemeckis' trademark slick taste in camerawork, makes up for the more average areas in his cinematography with very clever shot staging that isn't quite played with as much as it usually is, but remains sharp enough to immerse you into this film's environment when you need to most. Burgess' cinematographic efforts, when at their sharpest, give you a real feel for this film's world, and therefore help you in gaining a real feel the film's atmospheric range, which is made palpable enough by the value of the story behind the atmosphere, alone, because as problematically handled as this film's worthy subject matter all too often is, there is a wealth of intrigue behind this story concept, much of which is brought to life by some high spots in John Gatins' bloated, but generally witty, well-characterized and often engagingly realist script, as well as plenty of high points in this film's highly-anticipated directorial effort. In my opener for this review, I deemed the crash-landing sequence in which this film's development segment culminates over-the-top, but rest assured that that was a joke, as such a sequence is really sold on you by Robert Zemeckis' considerable attention to detail, which also backs the belivability of the crash-landing sequence with effective tension, and after that golden sequence, the film dips too far to climb up to excellence, on the whole, but still sustains your investment through and through, thanks to Zemeckis' making his comeback to live-action films a worthwhile one by delivering on a genuine dramatic punch for every superficial moment, - especially with the powerful ending - as well as on a steady pacing that may exacerbate the sting of this film's draggy story structure, but generally gives you enough time to really soak up the essence of this film, not to where you're filled up enough to recognize the final product as the excellent effort that it could have been, but certainly to where you're willing to go with the film, no matter how often it faults. The film's atmosphere isn't as potent as that of "Cast Away", and emotional kick isn't as striking as it is in "Forrest Gump", but Zemeckis' human approach to this film that, well, actually features humans is consistent enough in its kick for you to go compelled through thick and thin, and Zemeckis wouldn't have been able to pull it off as surely as he does without recieving quite a bit of support from this film's engrossing lead performance. Sure, from the charming John Goodman - who looks like a fat Bill Engvall in this film - to the, as the clever justice-seeker of an attorney, convincing Don Cheadle, this film's supporting cast is rich with color, with the unevenly used and, in the long run, not too terribly needed Kelly Reilly all but stealing the show in her engrossing portrayal of a suffering addict who is working to drive herself into rehabilitation, which leaves Reilly to rank among 2012's best supporting actresses, but this is Denzel Washington's show, and boy, does he make sure that you don't forget that, being charismatic as always, until his charm goes broken up by emotional range that is nothing short of fiercely near-piercing, defining the human depths of our lead William "Whip" Whitaker character, who goes further defined by Washington's layered presence, which presents the addict's anguish-riddled road to either recovery or disaster with both audacious authenticity and thorough engagement value. Washington turns in one of the best performances of 2012, as well as one of his best performances in quite a while, and while he's not strong enough to carry this film out of its shortcomings, his strength as lead actor, married with the compelling directorial efforts of Robert Zemeckis, as well as with the value of this film's subject matter, proves to be enough to carry the film as rewarding, with enough dramatic effectiveness for you to walk away having faced a generally worthwhile drama.
To bring this review to a landing, the film is overlong, with too much fat around the edges and even a bit of repetition, and that alone is enough to hold back the film's full effectiveness, which takes further damage from subtlety issues, particularly sentimentality, thus leaving this film to fall short of what it could have been, but still carry on as compelling, with a strong soundtrack and nifty photographic style to compliment the color within this film's intriguing subject matter, whose high points in execution, charged by inspired direction and a strong cast of colorful talents, headed by an engrossing Denzel Washington, prove to be enough to make Robert Zemeckis' "Flight" a more often than not engaging drama, with enough intrigue and resonance to battle past shortcomings as genuinely rewarding.
3/5 - Good