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Stars: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood, Tamara Tunie, Nadine Velazquez

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Let's face it - if your plane was caught in a storm, the hydraulics had failed and you were plunging towards earth, one of the actors you'd most like to see in the cockpit would be good ol' steady Denzel Washington.

Well, yes and no.

Washington certainly lands the plane, flipping it upside-down to stabilise the dive, and only six passengers and crew are killed in the ensuing, very well-staged crash landing, including Washington's lover, a flight attendant (Rodriguez). However, our brilliant pilot is also a dissolute, alcoholic drug addict, something which blood samples taken after the crash are sure to reveal.

Where does he go from here to escape a prison sentence?

Attorney Don Cheadle is hired to produce the answers, but it isn't easy.

Although Washington gives his usual sterling performance and there's an excellent contribution from Britain's Kelly Reilly as the junkie who becomes his new girlfriend, this is a very long drawn-out affair with a lot of indistinct dialogue which the sound editors should have addressed before the picture was finished, so that, like the plane, the film goes into a downhill dive with only a few redeeming moments.

The plot, too, is rather arbitrary. Why, for example, do Washington's advisers leave him a hotel room with a fully-stocked bar the night before he's due to face a tribunal? Not that it makes any difference to the final outcome, but it's just one of the sillinesses that weaken a potentially powerful film, and make it into a long haul.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by deluxe.
138 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 3, Swearing 2.

Review date: 27 Jan 2013