From this… Image via theoccidentalobserver.
How much harm can it do?
…to this. Superb. Image: thefix.com.
I suppose it depends on the current mental health of the individual watching it, but this weekend I left The Viewer in Mr Zemeckis’ usually capable hands while I went upstairs for a well earned primal scream into my pillow.
When I returned two hours later, a little hoarse and puffy around the eyes but just about ready for another onslaught, she accused me of lying about everything. She told me that far from being inhibitions to a successful career as a pilot, drinking, smoking, taking drugs and having sex (whether separately or at the same time, as William “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington) rather impressively managed in the first ten minutes of Flight) actually add to one’s ability to fly a plane. That there was no reason whatsoever why an unhinged person with clear mental health issues should be precluded from flying passenger jets, because even if they crashed and a few people died, any dubious test results could be easily ‘killed’ by a air company lawyer keen to shift any blame (and financial responsibility) onto the manufacturer of the plane.
She accused me of crushing her childhood dreams.
How to explain she had fallen for a wily director’s devious plan to trap his audience into empathising with a complete narcissist? Again and again, Whip makes decisions that challenge the onlooker to see the weakness within – he drives while necking vodka from a bucket, he constantly reminds everybody who’s trying to help him that he’s a hero, he treats the heroin addict he rescued like a heroin addict he rescued – but they’re just punctuation marks in the overarching heroic narrative. Whip landed the plane when no one else could. He saved most of the people on board. Anything else is just background.
I tried, but failed miserably. She hasn’t spoken to me since, preferring instead to stare intently at her laptop screen while it displays frightening scenes of a virtual aircraft, piloted by herself, ploughing into lakes, forests, runways and in one particularly exciting scene, an air traffic control tower. She’s even got hold of a captain’s hat.
Mr Zemeckis. In one regard, you’ve directed a fairly pedestrian but engaging movie. But by attempting to force your audience to grapple with a complex moral ambiguity (far more competently handled by Anthony Minghella in his adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’), you’ve ruined my week and probably imperilled air travel for years to come.
You’re off Viewer-sitting duties. Over & out.