A dozen years since the last time he directed a human on screen, Robert Zemeckis brings us this tale of an alcoholic pilot who miraculously prevents a plane from crashing, and then his life comes under the microscope. Is Zemeckis’ return to live action worth the decade plus wait?


Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: John Gatins

Denzel Washington – Whip Whitaker
Kelly Reilly – Nicole
Bruce Greenwood – Charlie Anderson
John Goodman – Harling Mays
Don Cheadle – Hugh Lang

This movie begins amazingly. It opens with a Barenaked Ladies tune, and a bare naked lady. Denzel’s Captain Whip Whitacker is in bed, hungover, drinking, and doing two different types of drugs. Then he suits up and goes to work. Once Denzel boards the plane the tension begins to mount, and doesn’t let up until the plane falls out of the sky. The opening twenty minutes of this movie are brilliant. It is a truly intense and rather brilliant opening. It looks great, and everyone’s performances are brilliant. It is why it’s great to see Zemeckis back directing honest to goodness human actors again, if for no other reason than for the whole plane sequence.

Ironically, once the plane crashes to earth, the movie begins to follow suit. What could have been a very interesting story about the investigation in to the crash, and how it affects the life of the hero captain, who is hiding his alcohol dependence, instead becomes a story about an alcoholic, with some bits about some flight that had some problems.


Don’t get me wrong, there is some good here, for instance the performances are great. This isn’t the Denzel we’re used to seeing. This Denzel is a very unpleasant man, who repeatedly makes bad decisions, and it’s a testament to his performance that you both respect the man’s heroism, but don’t much care for the man himself. Goodman steals every scene he is in, of which there isn’t anywhere near enough of for my liking. Cheadle is solid and compelling, as always, and it’s great watching him and Denzel exchange brilliance on screen. Kelly Reilly is very likable, despite the fact that her character is somewhat flat. All around, the performances are good.

The direction is rather uneven, but for the most part successful. He gets good performances out of his actors, uses the camera very well, and manages to keep the story interesting. The problem with the movie is the direction of the story. There are obvious comparisons with the “Hudson Miracle”, but this was apparently written a decade ago, so any similarities are purely coincidental. I can’t help but feel it’s a missed opportunity to tell a better tale, and all it would take is simply shifting the priorities. They don’t seem to have anything new to say on the subject of alcoholism. It is also incredibly heavy handed with the topic of God, his influence, and plan for our lives.


So…It’s okay, good even, but not very good. There are some really good performances. And those opening 20 minutes, specifically the whole crash scene, are brilliant. But everything after that is only good, uninspired Oscar fodder, and coulda been better.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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The Author

Cathal Ó Míocháin

Cathal Ó Míocháin

What to say...born in the last year of the seventies, the decade of the best music and movies, Cathal's earliest memories are of movies and comics. Star Wars, Batman, Superman and Indiana Jones filled his childhood, and not a whole lot has changed. He lives in Dublin, with his supremely understanding wife. Cathal voice his opinions across the various corners of The IntarWebs: @CatHaloMovies on The Twitter; Cat Halo Movies on The FaceSpace; and on the Major Spoilers Forum, where all manner of opinions are aired by all manner of folk on a wide variety of topics.

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