Flight of the Phoenix

The only thing missing from Flight of the Phoenix is a producing credit by Jerry Bruckheimer. Like the recent National Treasure, Flight of the Phoenix is a mindless action movie that is fun to watch but annoying to think about. Unlike other movies of the same ilk, it has quite a pedigree. The original 1965 film, written by Lukas Heller based on the novel by Elleston Trevor, garnered two Oscars and starred such luminaries like Jimmy Steward, Richard Attenborough, and Ernest Borgnine. The remake stars Dennis Quaid, Miranda Otto, and Giovanni Ribisi. It's just not the same.

The story, however, is exactly the same. Screenwriters Scott Frank (Minority Report, Out of Sight) and Edward Burns (Ash Wednesday, Sidewalks of New York), yes, that Edward Burns, do a little updating. They add a woman, two African Americans, and one Hispanic. Otherwise, the various plot devices that keep the story going happen in more or less the same fashion. Capt. Frank Towns (Quaid, The Day After Tomorrow, The Alamo) and his co-pilot A.J. (Tyrese Gibson, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Baby Boy) go to Mongolia to airlift out a crew of an oil well. They run into a storm above the desert, and crash miles away from any people or water. With little food and litle water, they decide to stave off death by building a plane out of their crashed one.

Elliott (Ribisi, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Cold Mountain) claims to design airplanes, and he is the one who will spearhead the effort. He is elitist, and does not see eye-to-eye with Towns. Moreover, Towns clashes with Kelly (Otto, Danny Deckchair, The Return of the King), the person in charge of most of the oil workers. And with such a diverse group, director John Moore (Yeager, Behind Enemy Lines) assures viewers that arguments will break out sooner or later as the group ethic collapses. In fact, things like bandits, fights, and sandstorms pop up every so often to break the monotony.

Flight of the Phoenix does look great. It moves relatively quickly (mainly because of the various distractions) and is mindlessly entertaining. Nevertheless, the film is unrelentingly superficial. The only person with any sort of personality is Towns. All the other characters are on screen for such little time that it is hard to identify with them and their situation. Moroever, there are some bizarre lapses in continuity. Sandstorms repeatedly bury the plane (the back of which is completely open), yet the storm finishes, and the plane sits there. How did they manage to dig out? Even better, how did they manage to remove the piles of sand that built up around the plane? Questions like these linger because there is little substance to grasp onto.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some language, action, and violence.

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