A serious drama for Zemeckis this time and you'd think that might sound a bit dodgy, but its not!. I must admit to being really quite mistaken about the premise here, I kind thought this was some kind of in-flight disaster flick. I thought the whole film was on-board an airliner, some kind of long haul thriller, so totally wrong there.
As it turns out the film is about a veteran pilot played by Washington who is a secret alcoholic and casual drug user. Unfortunately this 'top gun' pilot of passenger flights has the incredible bad luck of having his latest flight fall apart on him and go down. The main crux of the story being he just happened to be high and nicely drunk at the time. Yeeeah the suits are gonna have a field day with that sunshine, if it ain't safe don't do it and that's gonna equal some major retraining meladdo.
So this kicks off a long emotional rollercoaster as Washington's character must fight to prove the plane was damaged from the get go and his 'issue' had nothing to do with it. An 'act of God'.
Now this might sound rather drab but its actually really intriguing to see how this modern age works with all its health n safety nonsense. I could say its like a witch hunt of sorts really, the bottom line being despite the fact the plane was in bad shape and fell apart due to bad maintenance means nothing because of one fact, the pilot had been drinking. The word scapegoat arises.
This is the main focus of the film and it rings many bells within the real world because this is what its actually like. The plane could of been struck by lighting and gone down, completely an 'act of God' by which no one could avoid. But if the pilot turns out to have a negative drugs n alcohol test...he's screwed!. The airline companies, safety boards/regulators, police...everyone will be on your ass due to that test result, they will want someone to hang for it and that test result will take the centre stage.
This film is very good at showing how frustrating/stressful this scenario can be for someone (if you've worked in public transport of any kind you will relate BIGTIME!), of course the drama is slightly more exaggerated for film purposes. Washington is like Daniel Day-Lewis, you have an epic drama, you hire one of these guys, you really can't go wrong and I don't even need to say anymore on the matter.
Is John Goodman in everything now!? again he pops up here as Washington's drug dealing buddy. I must say I didn't really like this aspect of the story, this character, as it just seemed too Hollywood. Without trying to give much away...the finale where Washington's character is wasted (again) and they need to get him together was ridiculous. Yes of course its artistic license being a film and not real but really? would a lawyer and top union rep really actually assist this guy after all they've done when he goes and gets wasted AGAIN!. On top of that they actually pay for him to take cocaine to 'perk him up' as it were, coffee not being strong enough.
Next minute he's out the door shades on ready to take on the courts. This whole sequence ruined the film for me as its completely unrealistic (this is suppose to be a serious film) and it shows Washington's character hasn't learnt a thing, it frustrates you. But I guess it lines up the story for the 'down to earth with a bump' finish for Washington's character.
The whole plot is frustrating really, if you know the transport field especially. The ending stings and you feel the emotion Washington's character must feel. He saved the plane, 96 out of 102 folk on-board, its proven beyond a doubt, faulty mechanics and poor maintenance, his skills were unmatched and he saved the day. But alas! one small test that doesn't really mean anything (in this case) is what everyone hooks onto, oh the agony!!.
Definitely a surprise as it starts out rather dull but really gets a hold of you once we are airborne. The whole film doesn't feel like a product of Zemeckis a tall, kudos Sir. The basic premise of watching a character go through hell, the ups and downs, is nothing really new but I latched onto this, I could relate, I could feel his pain and anger. So for me this film really struck home and had me glued to the screen. Whether everyone will be the same I dunno but its well worth the watch despite a pretty uninspiring film title.