Film — Flight Of The Phoenix (PG-13)

Flight Of The Phoenix (PG-13)

by Amy Diaz

A wacky bunch of oil-rig employees show a little good old-fashioned American know-how (also pluck, moxie and sass) when, after their plane crashes in the Gobi desert, they decide to construct a new one in Flight of the Phoenix.

Sure, some of that American know-how comes from Brits, Aussies and a man of indeterminate Middle-Eastern origin, but some of them are American, so good enough.

Capt. Frank Towns (Dennis Quaid) arrives at a remote oil rig in the Gobi Desert with one job — take the workers home. The workers, led by feisty Kelly (Miranda Otto), are somewhat pissed — the end of the oil rig essentially means the end of their jobs. As they leave, complete with mysterious straggler Elliot (Giovanni Ribisi looking very Nazi-scientist with bleached-blonde hair, an early Banana Republic set of khakis and the flat accent of Pure Evil), the plane hits a massive sandstorm and crashes.

Once the gang is able to dig themselves back to daylight, they take stock. They have very little water, are hundreds of miles from any form of human life and may not be high on the list of people needing rescue. (They do a cost benefit analysis based on the other cargo — unfortunately, only a bunch of used-up tools.) Faced with the choices of sit-there-and-die or start-walking-and-die, the distraught former wildcatters  choose the first one, actually. But then Elliot announces that he can build a new plane using the parts from the old one. After the necessary round of disbelieving comments and weighing it against the much easier sit-there-and-die option, the gang decides to pitch in, listen to Outkast and build their escape plane.

Stuff gets in there way, of course. Intra-group fights, some accusations of water stealing, the occasional appearance of nomad-bad-guys and the odd sandstorm keep the movie from ending too soon and allow for a few moving scenes where characters we were supposed to grow to care about are killed off.

Flight of the Phoenix feels like a last-minute term paper by a really good BSer — all the parts are there, everybody does and says what they should, the movie follows a predictable and completely sensible path. Sure, like any good scam-session-resulting-from project, the movie is full of filler, dangling plot threads and unnecessary characters. And it isn’t particularly good in any way. But it does meet all the requirements.

A remake, the Flight of the Phoenix may be prevented by its original (made in 1965) from adding or even just tweaking a story that’s grown considerably less fresh over time.

This Phoenix accomplishes the task for which it was built — to more or less hold your attention for the two hours it runs — without doing the slightest bit more. 

- Amy Diaz

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