Flight casts Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, an alcoholic airline pilot who miraculously manages to avert disaster after his plane undergoes a mechanical malfunction – with Whip’s subsequent efforts at quitting booze (and cocaine) thwarted on a consistent basis by a number of outside factors. Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, working in the live-action arena for the first time since 2000’s Cast Away, does a fantastic job of immediately drawing the viewer into the proceedings, with the inclusion of several impossible-to-resist elements – eg the spellbinding plane crash, Washington’s riveting performance, etc – establishing an impressively promising atmosphere that does, unfortunately, prove to be short lived. The film, which admittedly remains quite watchable from start to finish, begins to demonstrably fizzle out at around the one-hour mark, with the progressively meandering nature of John Gatins’ screenplay compounded by an almost impossibly overlong running time (ie the movie’s subdued character-study vibe virtually demands a much more brisk sensibility). The overstuffed narrative – which is never more evident than in its emphasis on Kelly Reilly’s intriguing yet superfluous Nicole – inevitably lessens the impact of the film’s overtly positive elements, and it’s ultimately impossible not to lament Zemeckis’ decision to place such a simple story within the context of an epic framework. Flight is, in the end, a tremendously erratic endeavor from an otherwise flawless filmmaker (within the live-action realm, that is), with, one can only hope, the movie standing as a stepping stone back to bigger and better things for Zemeckis.

**1/2 out of ****

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