In “Flight,” legendary director Robert Zemeckis finds himself in familiar territory: Oscar contender. The man behind such legendary films as “Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Cast Away,” returns this year with his first live action film in nearly ten years, and only his second R-rated film ever (1980’s Used Cars is the other.)
“Flight” tells the story of airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Oscar Winner Denzel Washington) who heroically crash lands his out-of-control plane full of passengers in a field in rural Georgia. Though there are casualties, Whip is labeled a hero for doing what no other pilot could do under those circumstances.
However, as the investigation ensues, we learn that there is more to this tragic character than meets the eye. Zemeckis remembers fondly the unconventional process that went into making this film recalling, “I had my screenwriter (John Gatins) on set with me everyday, because he wrote such a unique and powerful screenplay, and I needed him there to be my creative soulmate.”
If that wasn’t enough to break convention, Zemeckis made the film almost entirely in chronological order, a practice that is almost non existent in modern Hollywood. “That was always our goal to do it that way, but of course you can’t always hold yourself to it” he says, laughing.
While making the film, one constant that Zemeckis had to keep in his mind was that the movie is not just about flying, it’s about the tragedy of Washington’s character. “There are two types of heroes” explains Zemeckis, “movie heroes and real life heroes, and this story is about a real life hero…Whip is really great at a lot of things, and he’s also really flawed. He shows how all of us are imperfect.” Perhaps what makes “Flight” so compelling is the central theme it employs, one of people using different methods to search for the same answer.
Zemeckis proudly states, “that theme is everything, it was vital to the movie. None of this is by accident, so because nothings written by accident there’s always a plan.”
The film presents an honest story, about an imperfect man, and it does so without talking down to the audience. Most impressively, it does this without excluding anyone, including college students.
Zemeckis is very aware of this fact, and it’s what he loves most about it. “I remember when I was in college, I loved stories about experiences that I hadn’t experienced yet. I think anyone who makes it to 16 has some emotional miles on them, and I don’t think you have to have calendar miles to understand what this movie’s about.”