FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (John Moore, 2004)
In FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX a transport plane crashes in the Gobi Desert. Pilot Frank Towns, played by Dennis Quaid, doesn’t expect imminent rescue. During the storm the plane’s communications were severed, and they went off course to the point where he doesn’t know if they’re in Mongolia or China. Giovanni Ribisi is the mysterious passenger Elliott, an aircraft designer who believes he and the oil drillers onboard can fashion another plane from the wrecked remains.
Growing up I remember how my dad would identify some stupid action film we’d run across flipping through channels. He’d usually say, “What crazy movie is this?” The description wasn’t complimentary, but we’d end up watching for a while anyway. I know he’d say the same thing if he ever comes across FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX on cable some time. This is a monumentally dumb film populated with characters that behave in the most self-sabotaging ways possible. It is not in the film’s favor that the TV series LOST provides a smarter approach to the stranded survivor story. Both put the characters in compelling situations. LOST uses it for a character study that’s among the most surprising and insightful on television. FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX ignores the human drama to focus on cockamamie setbacks that are harder to swallow than the plane’s motor oil. I laughed a lot during FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, which would be fine if this was a comedy. What a hoot this film is. Ribisi is hilarious as the plane designer, who’s more an adenoidal Aryan robot than a person. I enjoyed this remake of Robert Aldrich’s 1965 film for all the wrong reasons, so maybe that’s a validation of some sort.
(Review first aired on the December 21, 2004 NOW PLAYING