Flight is so much more than “a two-hour Denzel Washington performance.” Granted, the two-time Oscar winner is fantastic. That’s a given. What I didn’t expect from Flight was a complete return to form for director Robert Zemeckis, who ditches the cold, clammy environments of holiday-themed motion capture for his first live-action drama since Cast Away. Ironically, he’s still exploring a man who stands alone on an island. Yet, Washington’s fascinating Flight character -- alcoholic pilot Whip Whitaker -- isn’t really interested in finding a way back home. Repercussions await this man at the end of his journey. Atonement. Demons … the ones that linger at the bottom of an empty bottle.

Even out of the cockpit, Flight offers a bumpy ride. It isn’t perfect. But there are enough gripping moments built into John Gatins’ redemptive script to more than justify its value. And yes, Washington also is at the top of his formidable game playing a flawed hero who defies death by landing a fatally damaged commercial airline (in one of the most eye-popping sequences you’ll see on screen all year) … only to realize the worst is yet to come.

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