|Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Miranda Otto, Tyrese
Director: John Moore
As far as remakes go, Hollywood has thankfully begun to recreate popular stories from the 1950’s and 60’s, an era of the film industry that produced a lot of solid movies and starred some of the greatest actors of the past 50 years. Adapted from the novel by Elleston Trevor and based on the 1965 original film starring Jimmy Stewart, a remake of “Flight of the Phoenix” isn’t such a bad idea for modern-day audiences because it utilizes the same universal theme of human conflict. The film actually fairs a lot better than past remakes as well, and although it lacks the same great dialogue and drama from the original, the film’s cast of known and unknowns does an excellent job with the disastrous material.
Dennis Quaid stars as Capt. Frank Towns, a veteran oil company pilot who has been sent along with his right-hand-man, A.J. (Tyrese Gibson), to pick up a group of workers from a recently shutdown oil field in Mongolia. Director John Moore doesn’t waste much time with silly introductions though, and after a few handshakes, jokes and trivial arguments between the workers, the cargo plane takes off for Beijing only to run into a nasty sandstorm that forces Towns to crash-land into the middle of the Gobi desert.
With only the kind of luck you can find in the movies, Elliott (Giovanni Ribisi), one of the plane’s survivors, just so happens to be a plane design engineer and suggests that they build a new plane with the parts from the wreckage and fly themselves out of the self-destructive sand dunes before anyone else dies from the elements. The remaining survivors must work together in order to survive their emotions, lack of food and water, intense heat, and even a group of Asian nomads if they’re going to outlast their alleged rescue in order to create their own.
“Flight of the Phoenix” annoyingly skips between being an action/adventure film and a taut drama of survival. Both work well individually, with a few amazing action sequences highlighting certain areas of the film, but the story is much better served through the daily actions and emotional breakdowns of its characters. The script could have been a little more fine tuned as well, but because it interjects its drama with sudden explosions and classic rock music, the writers appear to be O.K. with dumbing it down through cheesy one-liners and political jabs. For those who haven’t seen the original, “Flight of the Phoenix” is a decent trip to the movies, but for those that have, the remake quickly crashes and burns in comparison.
The widescreen DVD release of "Flight of the Phoenix" may not look like it offers fans much past the film itself, but sometimes the best DVDs come in the smallest packages. Along with four interesting extended scenes that lend detail to the overall product and two pointless deleted scenes with optional commentary, the single-disc release also includes a full-length audio commentary with director John Moore and crew, but also the stunning 41-minute production documentary "The Phoenix Diaries." This obviously isn't the DVD of the Year by any means, but those who enjoyed the film will certainly welcome the thorough featurettes and commentaries on the making-of the film.