Denzel Washington's 'Flight': The Early Reviews Are In!

Critics agree that the actor soars in Robert Zemeckis' long-awaited return to live action.

New York Film Festival-goers strapped in Sunday (October 14) for the world premiere of "Flight", which closed out the fest in high-flying fashion.

The drama stars Denzel Washington as an alcoholic pilot, who heroically lands a crippled airplane to much adulation — until his substance abuse issues are brought to light and he's forced to answer for the crash.

The film, co-starring Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood and Melissa Leo, marks director Robert Zemeckis' return to live action, his first since 2000's "Cast Away" (which, it should be noted, also centered around the aftermath of a plane crash).

Here's what critics are saying about "Flight," which soars into theaters November 2:

Denzel Washington's Performance

"But Washington keeps it alive and real at all times as a man who, a failed marriage and an estranged son aside, would seem to have had things his own way most of his life and has never been forced to take a clear-eyed look at himself. The actors hits notes that are tricky and nuanced and that he's never played before, contributing to a large, layered performance that defines the film." — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

Robert Zemeckis' Direction

"Beyond its impressive special effects (a touchstone of Zemeckis' career), 'Flight' foregrounds movie stars in firm control of their material, particularly its leading man: Denzel Washington delivers one of his most astute roles in years as Captain Whip Whitaker, the alcoholic pilot of a doomed plane who manages to land it in a spectacular feat before dealing with the investigation into his culpability. Zemeckis' tight direction jives nicely with John [Gatins]' long-admired screenplay, resulting in a stylishly engaging character study with bold stabs at big ideas." — Eric Kohn, IndieWire

The Crash

"The heavily advertised crash sequence is thrilling. It's as intense as the one in 'Cast Away' but stands on its own. Every precise shot and passenger's scream builds tension." — Jack Giroux, Film School Rejects

The Final Word

"Audiences buckle up for one kind of movie but end up strapped in for another in 'Flight,' director Robert Zemeckis' welcome return to live-action after a dozen years away. Serious-minded drama steers a horrifying nightmare at 20,000 feet into one man's turbulent personal struggle with his drinking problem — and not in the jokey 'Airplane!' sense, either. Denzel Washington is aces as a commercial airline pilot who pulls off a miraculous mid-air stunt while flying with a 0.24 blood alcohol concentration, only to face his demons on the ground. Pic should soar on all platforms — except in-flight, of course." — Peter Debruge, Variety

Check out everything we've got on "Flight."