A SPECTACULAR plane crash and an Oscar-worthy performance by Denzel Washington make Flight (Cert 15) worth the cost of the ticket alone. Never mind that beyond that there is not a huge amount to be said for Robert Zemeckis’s movie.
The film opens in a hotel room with Washington waking up beside a naked woman (Nadine Valazquez) amid a jumble of empty booze bottles. He is soon arguing on the phone with his ex-wife and then snorting a line of coke.
Cut to the next scene and Washington, answering to the name of Whip Whitaker emerges all neat and tidy in a pilot’s uniform and we realise he is about to go to work flying a plane.
The flight ends in disaster, not because the pilot was off his head but because of an aircraft malfunction and thanks to his almost reckless skill (flying upside down to arrest a nosedive) nearly everyone emerges unscathed.
Whip is lauded as a hero until blood tests reveal the level of his intoxication . His lawyer (Don Cheadle) and union rep (Bruce Greenwood) tell him they might be able to get him off through a technicality as long as he cleans up his act.
But Whip is not prepared to listen to anybody. And here’s the rub. For most of the movie Whip is a thoroughly reprehensible character and it proves the strength of the appeal of Denzel Washington that we remain on his side.
There’s a sub-plot involving Kelly Reilly as a smackhead whom he encounters in hospital after she is recovering from an overdose. Together they attempt to overcome their addictions which proves surprisingly easy for her while he is unable or unwilling to enter a programme of reha. She despairs of Whip, leaves him to it and disappears from the picture - which only goes to show how much this is Washington’s movie. His performance is worthy of an Academy Award but as he has acknowledged he is up against Daniel Day-Lewis in a role that was designed for an Oscar.
Hyde Park on the Hudson (Cert 12A) can’t seem to make up its mind whether it is as film about President Roosevelt’s sexual peccadilloes or the British attempt to persuade America to join the the Allies in the Second World War. Nor whether it is a comedy or a heritage drama.
Roger Michell’s film is set in 1939 as President Franklin Roosevelt prepares to welcome King George VI and his wife Elizabeth to his country estate outside New York.
Based on the private journals of Margaret Lynch Suckley, it begins with Daisy (Laura Linney), a distant cousin of the president who lives nearby with her aunt (Eleanor Bron), being summoned to the big house. It seems that the 32nd president (Bill Murray) would like some companionship as a distraction from the pressures of office and a moribund marriage to Eleanor (Olivia Williams).
Before long Daisy and the wheelchair-bound president have become secret lovers. Meanwhile the royals have arrived causing a flurry of activity which leaves Daisy feeling marginalised but for her it becomes worse as she comes to realise the affair is not so much of a secret and that she is not the only one.
The focus, though, now centres on Samuel West and Olivia Colman as the Brits who feel completely out of water on their first Stateside trip but must keep on the right side of Roosevelt for the sake of their mission. They are in the roles played by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, of course, and it is to the film’s credit that they are shown in a more critical light, particularly the future Queen Mother who here is snobbish and jingoistic.
The stellar cast are all on good form and the period detail is sumptuous but you are never quite sure what is the point of it all.
Anything Arnie can do Sly can do just as well. The week after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big screen comeback, 66-year-old Sylvester Stallone springs into action again.
To be fair, in Walter Hill’s violent thriller, Bullet to the Head (Cert 15), based on the French graphic novel Du Plomb Dans La Tete, Stallone makes no attempt to disguise he no longer has a spring in his step, indeed he seems to play up his creaking joints.
He is mumbling hit man Jimmy Bobo who undertakes an assignment with partner Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda) to kill a corrupt ex-cop in New Orleans, but in the aftermath giant assassin Keegan (Jason Momoa) stabs Louis and badly injures Jimmy in a furious bathroom brawl.
As Jimmy attempts to exact revenge by tracking down who has betrayed him, Washington DC detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) turns up in New Orleans to apprehend him. But in the face of citywide corruption the lawman and the lifelong felon are forced to work together culminating in Jimmy’s daughter Lisa (Sarah Shahi) being held hostage in a cavernous warehouse - the perfect place for a violent showdown.
In the end, the only thing which makes Bullet in the Head any different from run-of-the mill straight-to-DVD tosh is the presence of Stallone.