Posts Tagged ‘denzel washington’


Fences (2016)

December 28, 2016

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby

Bottom Line: There is no question that Fences has some of the best acting you will see from any film this year. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give absolute knockout performances that are both shoo-ins for Oscar nominations and strong contenders to capture the statues. Granted, I haven’t seen most of the award contenders yet, but Washington and Davis give the two best performances I’ve seen this year. They are truly stunning. Totally heartbreaking.

Even though it never specifically places its setting, one can gather from various tidbits of information (i.e. Pennsylvania licence plates, references to Roberto Clemente’s career) that Fences takes place in Pittsburgh sometime in the mid-1950s. Washington stars as Troy Maxson, a garbage man and former baseball star, whose prime passed before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of Major League Baseball. His experience has left a bitter taste in his mouth so when his son shows an interest in football he immediately nixes the idea, citing the injustices of the past and ignoring the progress of the present, dismissing athletics as nothing but dead ends and empty dreams for a young black man. Viola Davis plays Troy’s loyal and loving wife of 18 years and the script really does a great job of showing the strength of their marriage while dropping hints that Troy is becoming attracted to another woman.

While watching the film, I thought there was something strange about the way it was being presented. It’s incredibly dialogue heavy and the whole story plays out like a series of long scenes. It’s actually quite noticeable. Upon doing some research, I discovered that Fences was actually a Pulitzer Prize winning play written by August Wilson that has had multiple Broadway runs – including one that starred Washington and Davis in these very same roles. So the fact the film adaptation feels eerily similar to a play actually makes a lot of sense. Most of the criticism I have read for Fences has mentioned how little it deviates from its source material, but even though I noticed a stage-like presentation, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film at all.

What did take away from my enjoyment a bit was the last 30 minutes or so of the film. I felt like it could have ended properly three of four times before it finally did.

Even though it’s almost entirely lacking in action, Fences is a character-based drama that touches on the whole gamut of human emotion. Despite it’s incredibly talky nature, Fences is still riveting and full of surprises. It will entertain you, make you laugh, break you heart, and probably make you cry. Washington and Davis are truly amazing here, but really the whole cast deserves credit for their work – it’s a total acting clinic. Fences is a must see film for the performances alone, but the script does a great job of developing its characters and keeping the audience entranced with captivating dialogue. It does overstay its welcome a bit, but I’d highly recommend seeing Fences at least once.

Replay Value: It’s not the kind of film most people would want to watch over and over again, especially with an ending that drags on forever, but I’d watch it at least once more.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Washington and Davis are guaranteed Oscar nominations and both of them would be my front runners to win the awards at the moment. There’s an outside chance it could get nominated Best Picture or Best Adapted Screenplay, but I’ll guess it just gets the acting noms.

Grade: 7/10 (highly enjoyable/must see)


Flight (2012)

April 7, 2013

Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Robert Zemeckis (Back To The Future trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away)

Quick Thoughts: Flight hit home for me a bit. Being an alcoholic myself–one that has been sober for nearly three years now–I couldn’t help but relate to the path of self-destruction that Denzel Washington’s character Whip Whitaker had created for himself: the complete lack of self-control, the walls his family has put up, the delusion, the denial. Of course, the decision to make this character the pilot of a major airline makes his story worthy of a film. Watching the movie, I was wondering how much of it was based in reality. Was it a true story? The answer is… not really. While Whip’s decision to invert the plane during the incredible flight and crash sequence was inspired by true events, the character of Whip Whitaker himself is a figment of screenwriter John Gatins’ imagination–or more likely, a loose translation of someone the writer actually knows.

This is one of those films where the hero is quite the opposite. There’s no protagonist in this movie. I can’t imagine too many people rooting for Whip Whitaker. He’s despicable. Aside from his alcoholism, he also abuses drugs, womanizes, and is generally crude and overbearingly filthy in his diction. Perhaps we want to see him sink so low that he finally sees and admits the errors of his ways, but that’s it. About 90 minutes into the movie, I turned to my girlfriend and said: “This movie can’t possibly have a happy ending.” There is no light at the end of the tunnel for this person.

While I found Flight to be entertaining–seriously, the flight sequence is jaw-dropping–and the best depiction of alcoholism since Leaving Las Vegas, I did walk away with some serious questions. Whip’s flight crew is all too familiar with his antics. He’s sleeping and partying with one of his flight attendants (a fellow substance abuser) and it appears this is no secret to the rest of the crew, particularly a devoutly religious woman that has known Whip for years. My question is, knowing who this man is, why on earth would these people get on a plane that he’s flying? I understand enabling and co-dependent relationships–believe me–but I can’t understand constantly putting your own life and lives of passengers in immediate danger. This man is piloting planes drunk while reeking of vodka (as his co-pilot later points out). Who in their right mind is letting that happen? Also curious, Whip’s toxicology report comes back with a .24 BAC after landing the plane, getting extracted from the wreckage, and possibly transported to a hospital. In other words, during the crash, Whip was probably sporting a BAC over .3, which is well into black out territory. Of course, this is the portrait of a “functioning” alcoholic, but come on. And… my comments on the ending I will post below*.

Despite these concerns, I was still pleased with Flight and thought it tackled alcoholism quite well. The crash sequence is legendary and Denzel Washington gives another great performance.

Replay Value: Worth watching again for sure.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Denzel received an acting nomination and Gatins a writing nomination. Surprisingly, the visual effects team was snubbed.
Nudity: Quite a bit during the opening sequence.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 79% Audience: 76%
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

Recommendation: Highly recommended, especially to those who have dealt with alcoholism in their lives.


I felt like this movie couldn’t possibly have a happy ending and while I suppose I was satisfied with the way things wrapped up, I didn’t really buy it either. Whip Whitaker ultimately breaks down and admits the truth of his alcoholism–a scene that brought tears to my eyes–right on the brink of lying his way to freedom during his testimony. All he has to do is tell one more lie and he can go right on living his destructive life. So what sparked his change of heart? He has the perfect alibi: the woman he spent the night with before the crash has passed away, she’s a known alcoholic, and he can say that she drank the two bottles of vodka that had been found in the wreckage. But instead, he admits that he drank those bottles and suffers all the punishments that come with that admittance. Why? Do we really believe this man, that has chosen alcohol over the relationships of anyone close to him–wife and son included–would choose this moment to come clean? Presumably to protect the honor of a dead woman he had a casual sexual relationship with? I’m sorry, but this would never happen in real life. Alcoholics are incredibly selfish people and I really believe that 100% of alcoholics in that situation would choose to lie and protect their freedom. Perhaps the close call with extensive jail time would be enough to spark a change, but Whip Whitaker doesn’t take the fall there. Ever.