|Flight of the Phoenix
2004 - PG-13 - 113 Mins.
|Director: John Moore
|Producer: William Aldrich
|Written By: Scott Frank, Edward Burns
|Starring: Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Miranda Otto, Hugh Laurie
|Review by: Harrison Cheung
|Official Site: http//www.flightofthephoenix.com/
An uneven remake of the 1965 film which starred Jimmy Stewart, “Flight of the Phoenix’ is directed schizophrenically by John Moore (‘Behind Enemy Lines’) and stars Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Hugh Laurie and Miranda Otto (‘Lord of the Rings’). Re-engineered for the 21st century, instead of a plane crash in the Sahara desert, we now follow the struggles of luckless oil company employees when their cargo plane crashes in the middle of the Gobi desert in Mongolia.
No baggage carousels in sight!
Though ‘Phoenix’ is entertaining as a B-movie matinee with an A-movie budget, there’s a lot of detail work that just wasn’t thought out. Survival movies haven’t sold well recently – ‘Alive’ comes to mind – but a sophisticated audience is looking for a certain degree of believability and realism in order to sympathize with plight (check out ‘Open Water’ for some survivalist verite). This ‘Phoenix’ starts down the path of incredibility as soon as we see a giant sand storm that looks exactly like the storm from Brendan Fraser’s remake of ‘The Mummy’ – and that storm had the evil spirit of Imohtep to blame. To cancel out today’s technology, the beautiful old cargo plane doesn’t have a transponder and chances of a rescue are quickly dismissed as cost-prohibitive in a one-sentence poke at the evil oil company that chartered the plane. Of course, there’s no cell phone coverage in the Gobi desert. But then again, no one in ‘Phoenix’ gets sunburnt, covers up from the sun, or gets sick from a diet of canned peaches.
A perfect example of ‘Phoenix’s’ B-movie fun is when the survivors encounter some Mongolian nomads. These caricatures from a Genghis Khan movie all spoke Cantonese – the Chinese dialect of the southernmost province of China that is by the Pacific Ocean and nowhere near Mongolia. Obviously, only Chinese-speaking people in the audience would have detected that blunder but it’s that kind of lack of attention to detail that keeps ‘Phoenix’ a mindless pleasure best not to be scrutinized too closely.
A grim and determined Dennis Quaid, as the pilot of the plane, clearly thinks he’s acting in a survivalist drama while director Moore thinks he’s making a ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ movie. There’s some great camera work as if Moore had watched ‘Three Kings’ and too many episodes of ‘CSI’ over and over. When the survivors discuss ways of saving themselves, their proposals are shot fast-forward, racing to a doomed conclusion. By the way, Quaid takes off his shirt a lot in this movie to show how buff a 50 year old can be.
Stealing the movie is the under-appreciated Giovanni Ribisi (‘Sky Captain’) as Elliot, a passenger who happens to have an aeronautics background. Elliot offers a solution to their problem – why not build a new plane out of the wreckage of the old one? Ribisi’s portrayal of Elliot, like a bleached blond Crispin Glover, is worth the price of admission alone as he turns into a seething geek egomaniac, demanding respect and water from his cohorts. At one point, he declares that he is the only one who is indispensable – perhaps forgetting about the pilot – and that launches his confrontational brainiac posturing with juicy flair. When he and Quaid inevitably clash, it’s a real shame that these two actors aren’t in a better movie. This ‘Flight’ is for standby only!