In this remake of the 1965 James Stewart adventure film, Dennis Quaid stars as Captain Frank Towns, who, along with several other unfortunate people, crash in the middle of the Mongolian desert. Somehow, they manage to build a new plane out of the wreckage and fly to safety, escaping heat, dehydration and violent locals.
I've never seen the original "Flight of the Phoenix," but I hear it's pretty good. In fact, I hear it puts this version to shame. I don't really care. As is, this new version of "Flight of the Phoenix" is entertaining and mildly intense, much more than I was expecting. It's a bit mindless and never very complicated, but it's fun and has its moments.
The movie starts off with an exciting plane crash in which Quaid foolishly flies the propeller plane into a giant sand storm. The propeller spins into the plane - literally - and they crash. Most of the people survive and, for some reason, there is enough water available for all of the characters to last for over a month. After several days of waiting around for help, one of the more mysterious passengers suggests they build an airplane based on his design. The survivors set to it, but more sand storms, electrical storms and local inhabitants cause all kinds of problems.
"Flight of the Phoenix" is fairly predictable, especially since 20th Century Fox basically showed the entire movie in the previews. Had they cut out a few of the scenes from the previews, the movie would have been a bit more exciting, but it still throws in a few minor additions to the "two minute" version. More noticeably, the movie fails to really address the issue that these characters are stranded in the desert for a month; near the end, I was expecting them to really be struggling in the sun and running out of water, but it just doesn't happen. The focus of the film is to be entertaining, not realistically suspenseful. The characters quarrel a few times, but that is about as dramatic as the film gets.
That being said, in a month that is made for award-winning dramas and deep comedies, it is nice to be able to sit back and enjoy yourself without having to think very hard. "Flight of the Phoenix" has its flaws, but it succeeds at what it set out to be. Some things could have been done differently to better results, but as is, "Flight of the Phoenix" flies fairly consistently.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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