Flight of the Phoenix

Cast:
Dennis Quaid as Frank Towns
Tyrese Gibson as A.J.
Giovanni Ribisi as Elliott
Miranda Otto as Kelly
Tony Curran as Rodney
Kirk Jones as Jeremy
Jacob Vargas as Sammi
Hugh Laurie as Ian
Scott Michael Campbell as Liddle
Kevork Malikyan as Rady
Jared Padalecki as Davis
Paul Ditchfield as Dr. Gerber
Martin Hindy as Newman
Bob Brown as Kyle

Summary:
While it isn’t better than the 1965 version of the film, Flight of the Phoenix is an entertaining survival story.

Story:
This film is based on the novel by Elleston Trevor as well as the 1965 film starring Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough, and Ernest Borgnine.

When an oil company shuts down drilling operations at a site in the Gobi desert, Frank Towns and his co-pilot A.J. are sent in to fly the remaining crew out. As the colorful cast of characters departs, they run into a massive sandstorm that causes them to crash. They soon find themselves stranded in the desert with little food and water, no hope of walking out, and no chance of rescue.

Despite the overwhelming odds, the mysterious engineer Elliot offers up a solution. He believes that they can build a flyable plane out of the remains of the wreckage. With the harsh environment, dwindling water supply, and marauding smugglers threatening their lives, the crew undertakes the seemingly impossible task. But will they tear each other apart first?

Flight of the Phoenix is rated PG-13 for some language, action and violence.

What Worked:
I was really eager to see Flight of the Phoenix. The unique story of survival and the excellent cast really intrigued me. Though the film ended up being not quite as good as I had hoped, it was still an entertaining story. It has been a very long time since I have seen the 1965 version of the film, so I can’t easily compare the two. I can say, though, that this modern re-telling isn’t any better than the original. But if you’re looking for an entertaining story of survival, Flight of the Phoenix will deliver.

The cast of the film is first rate. Dennis Quaid makes a great pilot as Frank Towns. You believe he’s a competent captain, but you also believe that he’s cocky enough to fly right into the storm that dooms them all. His subsequent guilt for the crash is never fully brought to the surface but you always see it behind his eyes. I’ve been a fan of Miranda Otto ever since her role in Lord of the Rings. While she doesn’t get to do quite as much dramatically in this film, she does get a significant amount of screen time. Then there’s Giovanni Ribisi as Elliott. He’s quite a complex character that you never really get figured out, even by the end. He’s part geek, part egomaniac, part genius. You don’t know whether to root for him or despise him. The rest of the cast is an eclectic mix of characters. Having worked in the oil industry with people just like these, I can say that they did a good job of creating an international cast filled with unique personalities. (Hugh Laurie, who played the Dad in Stuart Little, plays the snooty businessman Ian here.)

The scenery in the film is quite beautiful. The desert, wherever they filmed it, was a nice backdrop for the story. This is accompanied by an interesting choice of music for the film. It starts out with a Johnny Cash tune that immediately sets the tone for the story. This is followed up by other oldies throughout the movie. And needless to say, the crash sequence for the plane is quite spectacular.

What Didn’t Work:
As much as I enjoyed portions of the soundtrack, other portions of it made me cringe. There’s one scene in the film where they pop it the annoying song “Hey Ya!” by Outkast and start dancing around. It was so cheesy I almost had to close my eyes and cover my ears till it was over. Later on the strange music is combined with strange editing to give the film a very surreal, dark atmosphere that is in contrast to the earlier parts of the story (and the final parts, too, for that matter). When the crash survivors have their first confrontation with the desert smugglers, there’s a lot of slow motion, bizarre music, and fast editing that doesn’t seem to match anything else. There’s another abrupt scene where the survivors are looking for a lost man, then there’s a very quick flash of his corpse in the desert, then that’s it. It was just strange.

There are also a number of other cheesy moments besides the “Hey Ya!” scene of the film. There are numerous speeches about hopes and dreams, inspirational speeches, and speeches about getting home to loved ones. It’s your standard survival movie fare. But if you can get through these moments, then you’ll probably survive Flight of the Phoenix without problem.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, or survival movies, then you’ll most likely enjoy Flight of the Phoenix. It still doesn’t surpass the 1965 version of the film, though.

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