Flight of the Phoenix


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Rating: PG-13

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

Special Features:
Commentary by John Moore, John Davis, Wyck Godfrey, Patrick Lumb

The Phoneix Diaries featurette

Deleted and Extended Scenes

Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital Surround Sound
Spanish Subtitles
French Language
Running Time: 113 Minutes

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.

The Movie:
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.

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.

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.

The Extras:
The following bonus features are included on the DVD:

The Phoenix Diaries featurette – This is the centerpiece of the bonus features. It’s an “in the trenches” look at the making of the movie. A documentary crew followed the cast and crew to Africa where they filmed the desert scenes of the feature. It is surprisingly candid. You see director John Moore repeatedly fly into a rage then alternately act very calm. You see the actors get very nervous about filming interviews for entertainment shows. One of the cast members completely freaks out during one interview. There’s all sorts of behind the scenes footage and they follow the process the entire way. This extensive documentary is quite well done. Note that the language in this featurette is R-rated unlike the film itself.

Commentary by John Moore, John Davis, Wyck Godfrey, Patrick Lumb – Director John Moore shows his calm and cool side in the commentary unlike in the previous feature. They discuss the challenges of filming the movie, how Dennis Quaid practically directed the flying scenes since he’s really a pilot, and more. It’s interesting, but rather low key for a commentary. It would have been more fun with Quaid or other cast members.

Deleted and Extended Scenes – For some reason the “extended scenes” are separated from the “deleted scenes”, but they all seem like “deleted scenes” to me. One shows a little more of the characters after they crash. Another shows them trying to signal a passing biplane. A third deleted scene shows more of how they got the wing off of one side of the plane to the other. One of the most significant deleted scenes shows Ribisi’s character saying how he’s counting on one of the survivors to die when calculating the weight the plane can carry. Finally, there’s a little more action in the final moments as a bandit on a motorcycle boards the fleeing Phoenix as it prepares to take off.

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