Film Review: Flight of the Phoenix (2004)

Having not seen the original yet, I took the opportunity to buy the 2004 remake of Flight of the Phoenix after reading so many reviews saying how awful it was. While its by no means an awful film, its one that’s very confused in its delivery and whilst I did enjoy it and would watch it again, I was left wanting a lot more from what could have been a more effecting or gripping experience.

Released: 2004

Run Time: 113 mins

The Premise

A plane going across the Mongolian desert is taken down in a sand storm with its oil rig crew onboard returning home from a failed drill. The survivors must band together and put their differences aside to find themselves a way out of the desert before the water supply runs out and they all pop it.

The Disasters Faced

A sand storm, a place crash, starvation, looters and electrical storms.

The Execution

After the survivors of the plane crash realise no help is coming, they are lead by a slightly off kilter man to start rebuilding a new plane out of bits of the old one. The story then revolves much around getting on with it as a team, but different people seem to think they are more important than eachother – almost Animal Farm-esque (no, not that one, the George Orwell book!). Here is sadly where the direction gets a bit muddled as everything comes across half baked. The big set ups for massive clashes end up being a bit wet and I was expecting things to get a bit more heated and sinister than what they actually do become. The direction of the film doesn’t quite decide if it wants to scream the “We’re Americans!!!” comradary or be artistic (with a well done but very jarring Massive Attack death scene in slow motion) or just about survival. as a result, it doesn’t really delve much into any of them and leaps about in tone and content quite dramatically.

The Effects

Flight of the Phoenix has a fantastic crash sequence. The effects are great and where they land is absolutely stunning with its scenery. You are completely immersed in your surroundings. Quite how in the desert, no one is completely sweating their bums off and still wearing their flight jackets, I have no idea, but the scenery and explosions are rather fantastic.

Oops - splat

Oops – splat

Why It’s Worth Watching

Miranda Otto is great in her grease monkey role getting in and helping out the lads and Jacob Vargas as Sammi the chef steals every scene he is in with his “we’re lucky to be alive” attitude even when he’s left eating tinned peaches and regretting his bowl movements later! Seeing Hugh Laurie as a man slowly cracking under pressure was interesting too. However the majority of the characters I did not warm to, and the best scenes revolve around the off-kilter Giovani Risibi slowly going from bottom of the ladder to commanding more water and telling others they aren’t entitled to water as they are expendable and then leading the group. I’d wished the film was more geared around this tension that was created.

Drinking Game

Each passive/agressive strop that a crew member has. This is a shouty film.

Favourite Character

Sammi the chef for bringing on the boogie and remaining possibly the most cheerful man to be with in a plane crash.

Best Death

Hands down, this goes to the plane crash which blows out the back of the plane and gives us the best death in the film as a man is sucked out. We then find the body later in the film and its been used as target practice for smugglers! Kick a man when he’s down!

Cue Another Argument!

Cue Another Argument!

Weirdest Moment

There are two strange artsy bits in the film that go completely against the testosterone thrown everywhere else. These involve massive panoramic shots of our characters walking through the sand dunes, even though they don’t, and the strange death of one of our characters being shot in slow motion to Massive Attacks “Angel”. Why shift from one end of the artsy scale to a Matrix-esque shoot out?!

Random Trivia

There are a lot of continuity issues with eye patches and clothes… additional drinking game?

Goofy Quote

Whilst having a wee the character says “Maybe I should save this”

Conclusion

Don’t expect, and you won’t be disappointed. Flight of the Phoenix wants to show all kinds of different colours but doesn’t stay in them long enough to really carry the costume off. Some big names pull in the generally acting up to standard but the direction of the film is both muddled and lightweight. Upon watching the making of, that too suffered the same confused “I want to show my balls but be arty and therefore edgy” feel too. It didn’t impress me then, and the film, whilst completely watchable, didn’t really impress on me either and runs the risk of being non-descript.

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