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Flight of the Phoenix (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary from John Moore, John Davis, Wyck Godfrey and Patrick Lamb. The Phoenix Diaries. Extended scenes. Deleted scenes with optional commentary from John Moore and Patrick Lamb.

IN TERMS of boys' own action-adventure, John Moore's remake of Robert Aldrich's 1965 classic is an enjoyably diverting crowd-pleaser that seeks nothing more than to entertain the masses.

It takes an intriguing premise and turns it into a visually eye-catching if vacuous experience that makes for a suitably diverting couple of hours in the multiplex.

For anyone seeking more, however, or for diehard fans of the original, Moore's contemporary update may come up short.

For starters, it's far more lightweight than its Oscar-nominated predecessor, even if it remains more technically impressive.

Several cast members struggle to make much of an impression with paper-thin characters, while there's no real sense of dread or tension in the remake, which hinders the will they/won't they survival aspect of the story.

The plot follows pretty much the same path as the original. Dennis Quaid stars as hard-as-nails pilot, Captain Frank Towns, who is hired to close down a remote oil rig in the Gobi Desert, to the obvious dislike of its crew (headed by Miranda Otto's Kelly).

On the way back, however, his plane runs into a sandstorm and Towns, his co-pilot (Tyrese Gibson) and the crew of oil riggers, are forced to crash-land in the middle of the desert, miles off course, and with little or no hope of communication.

In order to survive, however, they must overcome their personal squabbles and subsquently rely on a plucky, if mysterious mechanic, Elliott (Giovanni Ribisi), who claims to be able to design a new plane from the wreckage of the old one.

With time running out, and gun-runners watching from the distance, Towns' motley crew bid to resurrect their own Phoenix from the baking sands of the desert.

Given that Aldrich's original boasted a heavyweight ensemble cast including James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Hardy Kruger and Ernest Borgnine, it's little wonder to find that the likes of Tyrese and Sticky Fingaz stuggle to make an impact.

But then they're not given much to work with, as the script fails to replace the post-war tension of the original with anything near as pertinent to modern times - hence, the reason for the gun-runners late on.

What it does do better, however, is create a sustained sense of realism, making the most of its stunning locations to create a hostile environment that is both threatening and believable.

It comes as no surprise to hear Moore, in interview, singing the virtues of being able to film in Namibia, given that it was miles away from any creature comforts and represents a convincing backdrop.

His set-pieces, too, are directed with gusto, from the exhilarating - and quite terrifying - plane crash itself, to several of the sand-storms and even a fun musical montage set to OutKast's Hey Ya.

While lead performers Quaid and Ribisi (especially) provide a consistently amiable presence and nice sparring partners.

It's just that come the film's final third, when tensions are supposed to have reached boiling point, viewers may find their minds wondering somewhat, rather than being gripped by the crew's worsening predicament.

Enter with this in mind and you'll probably still have a good time.

 

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