Denzel Washington crashes the Oscar party with a hard-earned return to form in this engrossing plane crash mystery-drama.
After snaring the Best Actor award for Training Day eleven years ago, he puts in arguably his best performance since, under the guidance of fellow Oscar winner, Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis.
In fact this is the first ‘live-action’ film the director has helmed in more than a decade since Castaway – turning his hand to pet project animations such as The Polar Express and Beowulf in the meantime – and this easily joins the upper echelons of his acclaimed library, which also boasts Back to the Future and Contact.
Washington stars as seasoned airline pilot Whip Whitaker, who miraculously crash lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving nearly everyone on board – bar four passengers and two crew – and is hailed an instant hero.
But everything is not what it seems, as the uber-confident Whip battles his own demons as an alcoholic and habitual drug user on the ground – and his toxicology reports taken after the crash could lead to a multi-million dollar lawsuit scandal if investigated further.
With the help of union rep Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and rule-bending lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), elements of the case are attempted to be swept under the carpet to keep Whip’s reputation intact, as the media start to dig deeper into the hero captain’s continuing attempts to stay out of the spotlight.
Great support from Kelly Reilly as crack-addict Nicole, and a superb comedic cameo from John Goodman as Whip’s pal and drug aficionado Harling Mays, adds further depth to an intriguing story that remains suspenseful throughout its leaner moments.
But it’s Washington who’s again the real success story. Watching what happens next as he battles his addictions is what gives this film its wings – even when it loses altitude in the middle third.
Despite all the twists being neatly tidied up to leave this just shy of the top Oscar honours – slotting into the ‘second tier’ behind the likes of Zero Dark Thirty, Les Mis, Argo and Lincoln – the sky is again the limit for Zemeckis.
Cast: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Nadine Velazquez, Tamara Tunie, Brian Geraghty, James Badge Dale, Garcelle Beauvais, Justin Martin
Running Time: 2hrs 15mins
Director: Robert Zemeckis [youtube id=”xnVNNR6CEOE” width=”600″ height=”350″]