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"I know we're desperate for food, but dragging a fishing net across the desert? We'd be better off eating the weak."


Flight of the Phoenix
(PG-13, 114 min.)
Wide release

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Flight of the Phoenix

Flight and fight: Flight of the Phoenix's plot provides primitive appeal

By Anthony Del Valle

No one will accuse director John Moore's Flight of the Phoenix remake of being an innovative film, or even a particularly good one. But it gets the pulse racing at the right times. If you can ignore the sometimes-inane dialogue and the one-stick characterizations, you'll likely be entertained by the primitive appeal of its plot.

Writers Edward Burns and Scott Franks pretty much stick to the outline of the 1965 Robert Aldrich original. Pilot Frank Towns (Dennis Quaid) and assistant AJ (Tyrese Gibbons) evacuate the employees of a failed oil exploration site in Mongolia aboard Towns' cargo plane. A nerd (Giovanni Ribisi) warns the pilot that his plane is overloaded. Towns is too much of a maverick to listen to a nerd. Sure enough, during a fierce sandstorm over the Gobi Desert, the plane goes down; bad news for the passengers, but good news for us, since it's a spectacular crash. (If there's one thing you can be sure of, modern remakes of older movies always have better crashes.)

Towns is content to sit in the middle of nowhere and wait to be rescued. But then the nerd claims he designs planes for a living, and thinks they can rebuild what they've got and fly out of there. The task makes for a Lord of the Flies-like power play, with the nerd finally gaining control. Complicating things is a pack of nomads who are bent on killing the survivors.

The screenplay gives the cast a lot of adolescent chest-pounding dialogue that the writers mistake for wit. And it never probes why the intelligent Towns is the kind of man who makes so many spectacularly wrong-headed decisions.

But as the plane is getting rebuilt, and the bad guys are approaching, and when the propeller finally spins, and when everyone is yelling with happiness as they head for the sky, you can't help but be involved.


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