Projections - Movie Reviews

Flight of the Phoenix
Flight of the Phoenix
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Tryese Gibson, Miranda Otto, Hugh Laurie,
Jacob Vargas, Scott Michael Campbell and Giovanni Ribisi

This remake of the gritty 1965 B picture starring the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Ernest Borgnine from director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) has an eye for bursts of special f/x’s and set pieces, but too often feels like a marginal Saturday afternoon film.

The cast is headed by Dennis Quaid who plays jaded pilot Captain Frank Towns, and gets “stripped down” along with a group of men and a woman after an evacuation of a shutdown Mongolian oil rig operation leads to a sandstorm and a crash landing in the Gobi Desert. The original had the survivors stranded in the Sahara and this re-imagining was filmed in the stark dunes of Africa’s Namibia Desert.

Aboard the wreckage of the impressive military cargo plane, the C-119, with Towns, are brash co-pilot AJ (Tyrese Gibson of 2 Fast 2 Furious), Kelly (Miranda Otto of The Return of the King), who ran the rig, and the man who shuts down her work, Ian (British actor Hugh Laurie of Stewart Little). Others making an impression during this mostly underachieving adventure are Jacob Vargas as a religious minded Hispanic cook and Scott Michael Campbell whose quiet, straying Liddle begins to help the crew into a new sense of hope.

However, the key character and main source of conflict for Towns comes from the enigmatic and insecure Elliott, acted by Giovanni Ribisi, used to good effect in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Here, Ribisi wears rimmed glasses and has dyed blonde hair, and the unusual Elliott announces well after the crash that takes two lives and the plane’s radio antenna that he is an aeronautical engineer. His idea is counter to Frank telling everyone to do nothing with limited water and food (canned peaches) with a 5% chance of being spotted from above.

The plot from Scott Frank and Edward Burns follows its predecessor as Elliott pushes them to make a new plane from what remains in the sand and how its name comes from the mythical bird that rose from ashes. Ribisi’s unpopular character remains the film’s most watchable because of its chameleon nature as Elliott believes a new fuselage can be made from the undamaged starboard boom linked to the tip of the port wing. The coldly practical fellow later models his character in a way that elicits chuckles.

Moore places emphasis on visuals souped up for the action oriented audience, but hardly makes the desert action taut! A sense of danger comes from an encounter with desert marauders after Towns finds one of the dead bodies from the crash serving as their target practice. It leads to a point blank shooting filmed in slow-motion that still doesn’t allow for the proceedings to generate the kind of interest from the conflict.

Nevertheless, the way Flight of the Phoenix arrives at its ending will please many. The characters’ relationships shift, like the appealing, unclinched Kelly and finally eager to say please Frank, will make some forget how preposterous and relatively easy things became for those grounded by a super sandstorm.

Flight of the Phoenix

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