NEW YORK -- The modest similarities between Robert Zemeckis's last live action film, 2000's "Cast Away," and his latest, "Flight," are interesting. Both begin with a plane crash that changes a man's life, a man who goes on a journey of finding himself and restarting his life anew. Both are films about rebirth. One chooses a tale of a company guy stranded on a desert island to convey the theme. The other chooses that of a pilot caught up in a malfeasance nightmare.
Each commits to film one of the most harrowing plane crashes ever seen*, but while Tom Hanks's time-obsessed protagonist in "Cast Away" learns to take his time through life, Denzel Washington's addiction-afflicted hero in "Flight" learns to admit his problem to the one person he's still fooling: himself.
And that's what the film is about. It may have elements of action filmmaking and courtroom drama, but it is, ultimately, a character study about the sickness of addiction. It captures the embarrassment, the denial, the rage and, crucially, the chronic fallibility that comes with it. The screenplay, from writer John Gatins, pulses with an authenticity that suggests personal experience, but married to a narrative that all but asks whether impairment might have sparked the inspiration to save a hundred lives in a bold way, it becomes something more complex.