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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.08%
Worth A Look: 22.03%
Pretty Bad: 20.34%
Total Crap: 8.47%

5 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
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by Scott Weinberg

"Not bad, considering the title pretty much spoils the ending."
3 stars

Yet another unrequested remake plops off of the Hollywood assembly line, this time a glossy modernization of a fine 1965 adventure film starring Jimmy Stewart. Boasting one of those great "high concept" premises - a group of folks stranded in the desert must build an airplane from portions of a recently kersmashed airplane - the original "Flight" must have seemed the perfect candidate for a remake: well-remembered and admired, yet still kind of obscure. But ultimately, here's the scoop: John Moore's remake doesn't come close to upstaging its predecessor...and yet it doesn't exactly humiliate itself either.

Dennis Quaid, in aging-yet-still effective good ol' boy American hero mode, plays the pigheaded pilot of a plane full of malcontents. His passenger manifest consists mostly of failed oil drillers and a few sweaty mechanics. Over the gigantic Gobi Desert the plane travels...until Captain Quaid unwisely pilots right into a massive sandstorm...and the plane goes down in cinematically sensational fashion.

So what to do with a dozen strangers who are wrecked (quite literally) in the middle of nowhere? Have 'em lie down and die? Try to walk the 200 parched miles to civilization? Nope! Have 'em break down their old build a new one! (File this under the "it's so crazy it just might work!" classification.)

So the concept alone delivers a provocative little hook. (For that we can cite author Elleston Trevor, whose novel inspired both this and the original movie.) We have the horrific natural elements to contend with, a rapidly dwindling supply of H20, the inevitable friction that arises when people are required to build an airplane out of a burnt-out fuselage... It all promises to be quite the tasty little stew.

But while filmmaker John Moore is now 2-for-2 in delivering crisply lensed and visually arresting action flicks (this one and 2002's Behind Enemy Lines), this also marks the second time that the director has been working well above his film's screenplays. Tonally, Flight of the Phoenix is all over the place. Sometimes it's Raiders-y, sometimes it's grim and scary, and of course there's a bunch of forced banter and unnecessary incongruous comedic material.

[For the record, I'd have given this movie 4 out of 5 stars were it not for one truly abysmal sequence that comes at the halfway point; suffice to say that if you just survived a plane wreck and were slaving away in 110-degree weather, you would not dance around to hip-hop while welding and hammering. You just wouldn't. For about 45 seconds, the movie just stops dead so we can get a pointless "soundtrack" moment, and it takes another 15 minutes before the flick recovers. On the other hand, the opening credits deliver a giddy thrill courtesy of Johnny Cash.]

Screenwriters Scott Frank and Edward Burns (an unlikely duo if ever there was one) do manage to elevate many of the characters beyond what we normally see in action/disaster flicks like this one. The guy who breaks out the pictures of his adorable "kids back home" actually does NOT die a horrible death eight seconds later; the leading lady (Miranda Otto) is not required to dance her way through a meaningless romantic entanglement with Captain Quaid; the "officious jerk" character proves to be rather heroic instead of sniveling and evil. So solid points for not following the paint-by-numbers guide to character development.

But for every minor victory and saving grace that Flight of the Phoenix has to offer, there are just as many components that irk and dismay. The pacing is all off, although it's easy to sympathize with any film that delivers its coolest scene in Act I. Moments of intensity and activity are followed by copious amounts of obvious yap; a solid fifteen minutes could have been trimmed to result in a much more efficient adventure.

Quaid's got that cocksure swagger that he probably does in his sleep, and the ever-likable actor manages to carry the movie through its numerous dry spots. Kudos also to Moore for delivering action scenes that are both visually slick and narratively cohesive. In this day of mega-quick-cut action-whiplash, it's nice to sit back and watch the onscreen mayhem unfold. And yeah, that plane crash bit is pretty damn amazing.

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originally posted: 12/19/04 21:52:42
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User Comments

7/10/17 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
12/01/08 Roz Not as good as the original, but I still enjoyed it 4 stars
2/09/07 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
12/29/06 David Pollastrini very good 4 stars
10/29/06 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
10/31/05 Quigley does the word "unnecessary" mean anything? totally predictable, but well-acted 3 stars
10/22/05 Jack Script is horrible - acting is worse - Ribisi amusing. 1 stars
9/18/05 Bad Critic Very predictable and lame. Don't waste you time. 2 stars
6/18/05 stage did not see 1st movie. perhaps that's why I enjoyed so much. Very interesting script. 4 stars
6/13/05 Terry Hercher Writing:excellent (some dialogue transcends time); character development:superb; 5 stars
5/08/05 Valerie pretty good! 4 stars
4/16/05 Carol Conway Passed the time pretty well 3 stars
3/26/05 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
3/21/05 Kyle Pretty hoaky. Token female char rediculous. DQ shirtless worth seeing! 2 stars
3/17/05 rick compared to the original this stinks 2 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens Look's boring 2 stars
3/04/05 Phyllis Skoglund My expectations were high so I was let down; I won't buy this “Flight of the Phoenix". 3 stars
2/23/05 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
1/07/05 Elizabeth S Thin characterizations and logic lapses, but kind of fun. 3 stars
12/27/04 Lord Jiggy a comic-book movie (see Goldman), but well done and not insulting 4 stars
12/24/04 Dan GREAT! 5 stars
12/20/04 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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