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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.08%
Worth A Look: 22.03%
Just Average44.07%
Pretty Crappy: 20.34%
Sucks: 8.47%

5 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
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by Brad Wilber

"The engines sputter throughout this remake"
3 stars

It’s not long into the desert survival story FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX before we’re fairly certain the script will be dispiritingly conventional (“If any of you believes in God, now would be a good time for you to call in a favor!”) A little further on we realize that while the actors are engaging enough, the performances are basically being phoned in—Dennis Quaid offers flinty eyes and gruff retorts but never looks at all like a man peering over an existential precipice. And the movie goes on to unpack the whole trunkful of crisis-movie plot elements (complete with comic relief: a corporate honcho hauls out the golf clubs and practices sand saves during a head-scratcher of a montage set to Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”). But if we’re going to apply the term “formulaic” in the negative here, we’ve also got to acknowledge the flip side: that a formula becomes a formula through repeated success. Though we may feel sheepish about having our adrenaline buttons pressed, they are pressed nonetheless, and PHOENIX does take us for a passably tense ride.

The film begins as the aforementioned company man (Hugh Laurie) calls a halt to an unprofitable oilfield venture in Mongolia and brings in pilot Frank Towns (Quaid) to fly equipment and personnel back to home base. The shutdown rankles for the site supervisor (Miranda Otto), but she and her crew see the writing on the wall and board the plane. Also claiming a seat is an enigmatic hanger-on named Elliott (Giovanni Ribisi), whose addition, in the pilot’s opinion, makes the aircraft too heavy. Minutes later, the plane runs into a savage sandstorm, and as Towns tries to skirt the maelstrom rather than go back, the plain crash-lands in the Gobi. Fatalities from impact as well as A Series of Unfortunate Events on the ground reduce the original passenger manifest to a nucleus of ten who must decide whether to conserve food and water and wait for a rescue, or consume resources more aggressively while throwing themselves into a work project to build a smaller viable plane out of the wreckage of the larger one.

In true movie fashion Elliott, the eleventh-hour wild card, turns out to be a designer of airplanes, so he ensconces himself as the brains of the operation. (There’s brawn enough, too. Directors these days seem to grab opportunities to highlight Dennis Quaid’s abs; the six-pack has not blurred any since BREAKING AWAY twenty-five years ago.) For all of Elliott’s acuity, however, he definitely lacks people skills. He becomes swollen with entitlement and even a little sadistic in his supervision. Add to the personality conflicts encroaching despair, explosions of surplus fuel, an electrical storm, hostile nomads, the introduction of a gun to the camp, and One Final Secret, and you have a few setbacks before liftoff.

PHOENIX was first made into a film back in 1965, with Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, Ernest Borgnine, and Ian Bannen. That crash took place in the Sahara. This time around we change venue and encounter a more even-handed demographic mix. Is it more culturally valuable, story-wise, to make something out of the new gender and ethnic representation, or to treat it as utterly incidental? This film does the latter. In the original PHOENIX, the airplane designer was of German extraction, which may partially explain why, in this version, Giovanni Ribisi has a blazing platinum dye job and an accent that combines early Brando with Sidney from “The Pretender.” Those quirks alone are enough to make Elliott is the most interesting portrayal—which gives you some idea how undifferentiated the other characters are.

The survivors look only slightly weather-beaten by the end of the movie—there’s a lot of clapping each other on the back, so sunburn must not have been a problem. Complaining too much about the cast seems churlish. They do honorable work. It’s just that I’ve experienced several of them giving much more in different circumstances. Even if it makes sense to have the characters fall into pondering the hereafter in the face of the long odds against them, director John Moore (BEHIND ENEMY LINES) chooses to keep the wasteland reverie to a minimum and concentrates instead on the white-knuckle moments. There are enough here to make you wish your theatre seat had a snug lap belt.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11347&reviewer=395
originally posted: 12/20/04 14:13:55
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User Comments

7/09/17 Stuart Nomad was wearing modern tennis shoes when dragged away. 3 stars
5/16/10 dr.evil The inbred & Quaid discussion @ the site of the shot guy is silly laughable 1 stars
11/30/08 Roz Not as good as the original, but I still enjoyed it 4 stars
2/08/07 Soranos I often found myself, not watching the screen. It's Interesting at some parts though. 3 stars
1/24/07 Matt Plot holes you can park a 747 in, but good fun. Quaid stands out. 4 stars
12/28/06 David Pollastrini very good 4 stars
10/28/06 Marty i was embarrassed for the movie 2 stars
8/13/06 George Brought 2U by hollywood cliches 'R' us. 3 stars
12/05/05 millersxing Cluttered with cliche and irrelevant claptrap. 1 stars
10/30/05 Quigley does the word "unnecessary" mean anything? totally predictable, but well-acted 3 stars
10/21/05 Jack Script is horrible - acting is worse - Ribisi amusing. 1 stars
9/17/05 Bad Critic Very predictable and lame. Don't waste you time. 2 stars
6/17/05 stage did not see 1st movie. perhaps that's why I enjoyed so much. Very interesting script. 4 stars
6/12/05 Terry Hercher Writing:excellent (some dialogue transcends time); character development:superb; 5 stars
5/07/05 Valerie pretty good! 4 stars
4/15/05 Carol Conway Passed the time pretty well 3 stars
3/25/05 hannaho Eh, it's okay, but it certainly will not overshadow the original. 3 stars
3/24/05 Joe I want my 99 cents back 1 stars
3/20/05 Kyle Pretty hoaky. Token female char rediculous. DQ shirtless worth seeing! 2 stars
3/16/05 rick compared to the original this stinks 2 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens Look's boring 2 stars
3/03/05 Phyllis Skoglund My expectations were high so I was let down; I won't buy this “Flight of the Phoenix". 3 stars
2/22/05 Debi Gosert Convincing action-adventure in the best sense. Based on a true story? 5 stars
1/10/05 jeff good comic story. acting could have been better. 4 stars
1/06/05 Elizabeth S Thin characterizations and logic lapses, but kind of fun. 3 stars
12/26/04 Lord Jiggy a comic-book movie (see Goldman), but well done and not insulting 4 stars
12/24/04 Dan GREAT! 5 stars
12/19/04 Ray A pain in the ass 2 stars
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  17-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Mar-2005



Directed by
  John Moore

Written by
  Scott Frank
  Edward Burns

  Dennis Quaid
  Giovanni Ribisi
  Tyrese Gibson
  Miranda Otto
  Hugh Laurie

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