ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  john moore

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  adventure

LENGTH  -  118 minutes

RELEASED  -  17 december 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  20th century fox

OFFICIAL SITE  -  flight of the phoenix

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $40,000,000
flight of the phoenix - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from flight of the phoenix at

buy the dvd from flight of the phoenix at

survivors of a plane crash in the mongolian desert work together to build a new plane.


poster from flight of the phoenix
buy the poster

one of the producers is william aldrich, whose father, robert aldrich, directed the 1965 original.


picture from flight of the phoenix

picture from flight of the phoenix

picture from flight of the phoenix

picture from flight of the phoenix


two out of four possible stars

Marketed with the veracity of a small puppy, Flight of the Phoenix is a film that has been abused by its distributor and plucked from release date to release date, finding its December North American premiere a cold wasteland of disinterest. With much more heavily marketed holiday fare and Oscar bait surrounding its crowded release, this film can hardly expect to crawl above the fray with its popcorn friendly narrative and less than profound characters. And what audiences will be missing is an innocent adventure film whose IQ is hardly near the stratosphere, but that is a more exciting ride than one might think, given its treatment by Twentieth Century Fox, its distributor.

Sitting in the captain's chair, star Dennis Quaid leads the cast of this remake of a 1965 film of the same name and handles the headlining role with ease. Constantly falling off and back onto Hollywood's radar screen, Quaid performs honestly as "Frank Towns," pilot of a transport plane destined to crash into the middle of the Mongolian desert. Although his dialogue doesn't always shine with the freshness that might have brought more viewers to the box-office, the actor still pulls off the brooding character with enthusiasm and strength. To Quaid's eternal misfortune, each leading role he takes seems to make its home in unimpressive films.

Other actors in the film are equally as enthusiastic as Quaid, each taking their somewhat "standard" roles and putting as much vitality into them as is to be expected in an action film of this caliber. As Quaid's co-pilot "A.J.," Tyrese Gibson (he seems to prefer his last name appear on the credits of his current projects) makes his character a personable one and increases his respectability in front of the camera. As do his costars, Giovanni Ribisi and Miranda Otto, both of whom clash well in the several argumentative sequences where all the survivors raise their voices in predictable, "we're all gonna die" fashion. An audience favorite will definitely be Jacob Vargas's character of "Sammi," who plays a fast-talking chef and brings welcome and believable humor to the picture.

A sticking point regarding the plot, and something that interferes with the true desperate nature of the characters, is the insertion of a few bands of Mongolian thieves into the plot. As though they were simply dropped into the film to require of the actors a few action sequences, these thieves don't really add sufficiently to the emotional impact of the story or its characters. The thieves are born out of a desire to create "danger" for the characters, when simply allowing the capable actors to argue alone in the middle of the desert would have been much more gripping. That feeling of pure desolation is lost for audiences and the marauders are only an intrusion to the more interesting character studies of people in dire circumstances.

The eternal problem of having not enough water to survive is as common in desert movies as is having not enough oxygen in. But in this film, that device is put to good use as it brings out arguments and character development from the characters. If one is able to put aside the stupid plot addition of the desert thieves into the plot, the interactions of the characters regarding their lack of water, the power struggle between the pilot and the airplane designer, and their race to build a plane creates an interesting base for the actors to play with. And given the intelligent casting choices, the film is blessed with more talent and regard than it might otherwise have received, given its loopy plot.

Although a standard popcorn flick often relies on its visuals to find favor with the audience, the cinematography of Flight of the Phoenix can hardly be considered consistent. While some shots seem to have been exposed too darkly (take a shot in the beginning of the film where Quaid and Kelly converse in the shadow of the plane) while others are drained of their color. Unlike the unique desert environment created by the recent crash film Pitch Black, this film's photography is all over the map regarding color strength and brightness. Some scenes are certainly washed out, probably colored as such to enhance the "feel" of the desert for the audience.

But other just as deserving sandy desert shots are exposed in a completely normal manner, as though the cinematographer simply tossed a coin into the air to determine just how much color he wanted in each shot. There's no rhyme or reason to the coloring and brightness in this film, so the spectacular desert vistas filled with endless, giant sand dunes are lost in the strange exposure of the film. Cinematographer Brendan Galvin is hardly a rookie in the realm of feature films, so who knows upon which shoulders the blame should be laid. The editing of the film is more successful in its execution (interesting time-lapse shots give the film a good boost), so the overall execution of the film's technical aspects can hardly be considered a failure.

This film suffers from some normal weaknesses of action films, but some of the "mistakes" are probably more odd than predictable. While useless plot diversions are anything if not normal in a film of this type, the uneven cinematography is nothing less than a shock. Viewers who give Flight of the Phoenix a chance can't go into the experience wanting something worthy of Charles Dickens' pen to fall out of the characters' mouths. What viewers will receive is an exciting desert disaster flick that, while it might not have you jumping out of your seat with anticipation, might actually engender some interest in the characters from even the most jaded of viewers.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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