Making his first live-action outing since the one-two punch of 2000’s Cast Away and What Lies Beneath, Robert Zemeckis charts an alcoholic jet pilot’s course to the bottom. Even juiced to the gills, Denzel Washington is still a hotshot flyer, as becomes clear when he hits a massive storm and goes into a nosedive. By turning the plane upside-down, he’s able to check his speed and save most of the passengers’ lives, but the ensuing investigation and media attempts to crown him a hero threaten to expose his addiction.
Any break from Zemeckis’ tireless attempts to ruin movies with the creeped-out motion capture of The Polar Express is welcome, but he doesn’t seem fully engaged with the story, which eventually degenerates into a 12-step recovery brochure. Kelly Reilly lifts the film in her scenes as a heroin addict who crosses paths with Washington in the hospital, but the film’s star is so stoic it’s hard to connect with the pain that’s meant to be buried under his booze-soaked surface. Zemeckis too focuses on surfaces — the crash sequence is a stunning setpiece — but never discovers what lies beneath them.