Frank Towns (Dennis Quaid) is the captain of a C-119 transporter plane ferrying staff and equipment for an oil company working in the Gobi desert. When they fail to strike oil, the company pulls the plug on the operation and the oil workers are called home. They grudgingly board the plane and head off straight into a vicious sandstorm which forces them to crash land. Stuck in the middle of a desert with no chance of rescue and with rapidly diminishing water supplies, they only have one slim chance of survival - to build a small single engined aeroplane from the wreck of the transporter. No small accomplishment if it can be pulled off. Flight of the Phoenix is a remake of a 1965 Robert Aldritch film of the same name that was, if not a classic of that era, certainly an enjoyable and plausible film. John Moore's 2005 version follows the plot and storyline quite faithfully with only a few deviations and is certainly more visually dynamic with first class cinematography, but - and it's a big but - it's as arid and sterile as the desert it portrays. Yeah, I'm afraid it's yet another pointless remake that adds nothing of note to the original. The cast by and large are eminently forgettable. Only Dennis Quaid as the cynical, reluctant leader and Giovanni Ribisi as Elliott, a clever but socially inept little Hitler of a man, come out of the film with any real plaudits. This is partly due to the film having an ensemble cast that are just sketches as far as the director is concerned. This being a 21st century remake, the crashed crew of rednecks are made up of a wide ethnic diversity and there's a female as well, instead of just a bunch of white men like the original. Fair enough, but the script doesn't do anyone justice, instead they're there just as a token politically correct gesture and to have their bad Johnny foreigner ideas shot down by Captain know- it-all Towns. Just like the girl. They barely register. Sure, they grumble and squabble but I just didn't feel any terror or real desperation emanating from the group, and after weeks in the desert most of them still look as if they're on an exotic calendar shoot, swanning about with their shirts off and not wearing hats. There's no sign of chapped lips, sore eyes, scorched skin, or chronic sunstroke. They're also far too energetic and lithe for my liking, as evidenced by a wince worthy 'Hey, Ya' musical montage as they build the plane. If the script writers Ed Burns and Scott Frank had explored a tenser group dynamic and racked up a real feeling of dread in their situation then we would have had a far more thrilling and suspense filled picture with at least some psychological drama. Alas, after an admittedly spectacular crash sequence we are left with trite dialogue and a couple of well made albeit contrived set pieces (an electrical storm and an encounter with some evil nomads) to pass the time before the inevitable conclusion. Trust me, even if you haven't seen the original you just know how this one is going to end, even down to the last spin of the propeller.
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