I have very mixed feelings about Robert Zemeckis' (Back to the Future, Cast Away) return to live-action film-making after 12 years away making his trilogy of motion-capture (mo-cap) films – The Polar Express (2004), Beowulf (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2009). Mixed feelings – not because I miss the fact he abandoned it for so long (although frankly, I never understood his obsession with mo-cap even though I'm one of the few people I know who actually likes his dead-eyed “village of the damned” movie The Polar Express) – because his return to live-action film-making is such a mixed bag.
In the first few seconds of his new movie, Flight, Zemeckis makes sure we understand that he's abandoning “cartoons,” and PG ratings of any sort. Denzel Washington plays “Whip” Whitacker, an airline pilot of many years and our first shot of him is as he awakens with a hangover. A buck-naked airline attendant rolls out of bed beside him and she heads to the washroom (you can hear her peeing in the background). His cell phone rings. He picks up and immediately begins an argument with his ex-wife. During the conversation, he drinks the remnants of a bottle of beer, and he liberally drops F-bombs left, right and centre. The airline attendant, Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), returns from the loo, smokes the remainder of a joint and lets him know they are due at the airport within the hour to work on a flight from Orlando to Atlanta. He mumbles assent, does a line of cocaine and, with the soundtrack playing Joe Cocker’s cover of Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright,” he dresses and heads to the airport: The confident cock of the walk.
We are barely four minutes into the film.