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20th Century Fox presents
Flight of the Phoenix (2004) (2004)

"The design is perfect, the only flaw is that we have to rely on you to fly it."
- Elliott (Giovanni Ribisi)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: July 15, 2005

Stars: Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Giovanni Ribisi
Other Stars: Miranda Otto, Hugh Laurie, Sticky Fingaz, Jared Padalecki, Tony Curran
Director: John Moore

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, action, violence
Run Time: 01h:43m:41s
Release Date: March 01, 2005
UPC: 024543174530
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I have bemoaned my displeasure with remakes before. Still, when films such as the 2004 remake of Flight of the Phoenix are released, it makes me wonder if studios are simply just trying to mess with their audiences. Here we have not only a retelling of an already fine but flawed suspense film, but the update follows the beats in the plot to a fault, and,, save for some nice effects it is pretty much the exact same film.

As in the 1965 film, the story tells of a ragtag group of oil workers and a pair of cocky pilots on the way back from Mongolia where an oil operation has proved to be a bust. By way of a wonderfully designed crash sequence they find themselves in the middle of the Gobi Desert with enough water to last for one month and no hope of repairing the plane. While the group numbers near a dozen members, the script only seems to be concerned with three: pilot Frank Towns (Quaid), the chief operator from the oil rig, Kelly (Otto), and the quiet engineer Elliott (Ribisi), the latter of whom has a plan to rebuild the plane from the wreckage.

This is roughly the plot of the film and while it may not be much, there is enough to constitute a nice amount of tension and suspense, or at least there should be. What raised the previous film above its trappings was the use of camera angles and editing to create a true sense of despair. Here technique has been replaced by computer wizardry and fast-paced editing. While done well, the visual effects distract and in turn take away from the film as it is hard to care about the survival of a character when it is clear that the sand storms they are battling are pixelated.

Director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) offers some nice visuals including a crash sequence that is tightly edited and sufficiently tense and, as previously mentioned, the special effects are done well but the film has nothing to center its positives around. The characters are merely shells of stereotypes and how they go from hating each other and threatening violence in one scene to jamming to Hey Ya in another is mind-boggling.

Flight of the Phoenix has its largest problem in the script by Scott Frank and Edward Burns, which spends too much time trying to turn the survivors into a team rather than showing us the struggles of being stranded. Things go from bad to worse on numerous occasions and there are of course speeches aimed at bringing everyone together but none of this makes for compelling cinema. To be truthful, the two best candidates for compelling storytelling are brought up but never resolved on screen. The first is a group of sand storms that bury the plane a total of three times—one that even includes the plane being completely covered, yet we never see them dig the plane out. Funny how they can't rebuild the plane in three days but they can dig it out from under a pile of sand in less than one. The other is the inclusion of smugglers who stand perched on the cliffs and give fear to our protagonists, but aside from adding another element of danger to the script, they simply come and go and give no specific reason for even being there.

It is imperative in a film about stranded characters that the performances make us care about them and that we want them to get out of the predicament. This is not the case here. Quaid does a good job but the role of Towns would benefit from a weathered man. Quaid simply struts around and acts like he is in charge. Ribisi and Otto do fine work, but the limitations of their characters leave you feeling that they could have been so much more.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The production design for Flight of the Phoenix is pretty much sand so it is a good thing that the sepias and tans of the films location come off looking well in this 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. From the outset the film looks impressively sharp with no grain to be found as well as a very film like feel throughout. Colors are done well and offer deep tones and no bleeding. There are a few instances of edge enhancement amongst the sand but it is never enough to be concerned with. This is a very nice transfer from top to bottom.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes for Flight of the Phoenix are done very well with the centerpiece plane crash sequence being forceful enough to make you feel like you are right there along for the ride. The mix isnít all flash though as the dialogue is strong and crisp and the less obvious effects are done very well. This is crisp and near flawless sound mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director John Moore, producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey, and production designer Patrick Lumb
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: First up on this DVD of Flight of the Phoenix is a commentary track by director John Moore, producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey, and production designer Patrick Lumb. There is very little discussion on why the film was remade but we do find out a lot about the location shooting, set difficulties, casting, and editing and all of this is nice and interesting but there is plenty more to be learned from the 45-minute documentary also included on the disc.

Speaking of which, The Phoenix Diaries is an in depth look at the shoot of the film as well learn about the production design, the creation of the effects sequences as well as interviews with the cast and crew that are informative and entertaining rather than promotional. The interviews feel earnest and that in turn may help you gain a little more appreciation for the film, but only just a little.

Finally, we are offered 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes in impressive 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. None add much weight to the story and one deleted scene that looks more like a beefcake calendar is laughable it is so ridiculous.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

As a rental and for those who have not seen the 1965 original, the new version of Flight of the Phoenix might just work. For me the film was disappointing, but the DVD makes the best of a bad situation and offers some great video and audio as well as a nice sampling of extra material.


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