Flight Of The Phoenix


Directed by: John Moore
Written by:Scott Frank, Edward Burns
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Tyrese, Miranda Otto, Giovanni Ribisi, Jacob Vargas, Hugh Laurie
Released: July 21, 2005
Grade: C-

It’s hard to believe a film starring Dennis Quaid and Miranda Otto could feature in my list of the worst 10 films of the year.  As talented as they are however, they stood no chance of rescuing this film.  The dreadful screenplay makes all the cast look second-rate.

The strange thing is that I usually like the work of writers Scott Frank and Edward Burns.  Frank’s credits include The Interpreter, Out Of Sight and Get Shorty.  Burns’s credits include Sidewalks In New York and The Brothers McMullen.  As life teaches us all, people make mistakes and deserve to be forgiven.  So I won’t hold it against either Frank or Burns - this clichéd effort is the exception rather than the rule.

The story begins in Mongolia with pilots Frank (Quaid) and A.J. (Tyrese) coming to collect a group of oil speculators who have had their funding pulled after producing no result.  They don’t want to abandon their hard work but there’s no choice, the orders have come straight from the top.  Off they set but near the Mongolia-China border, they encounter a savage dust storm and crash into the desert.  Two are killed.

Frank estimates its roughly 200 kilometres to the nearest civilisation and there’s no way that one could travel that distance under the hot sun.  His idea is conserve food and water (they have roughly a month’s supply) and wait to be rescued.  I took would think they’d be rescued.  It makes sense doesn’t it?  Surely these people have families back home who would be lobbying someone to go find them?  For some reason though, Frank thinks they only have a 5% chance of being rescued.

Presented with these dismal odds, the other survivors want a better alternative.  Lo and behold, there’s some weirdo on the plane named Elliot (Ribisi) who thinks he has the answer.  No one knows anything about him but he arrived out of nowhere at the isolated oil fields and was working with them for a few weeks.  Strange security, I guess?  Anyway, it just so happens that Elliot is also an aircraft engineer.  He believes that with the parts left from the broken airplane, they can build a new one which will fly them all to safety.

If you can believe this, then you’ll spend the next hour watching them do so.  My biggest frustration was how overly dramatic it was.  It’s as if the writers are creating drama just for the hell of it.  Just when you think something else can’t go wrong, they throw some new far-fetched twist into the mix.

The film was consistently bad but the final 4 minutes was truly horrendous.  After spending weeks in the dessert, I find it too convenient that a group of Chinese nomads just happens to attack them the split second that they are about to fly away on their “contraption”.  While we’re at it, can people really ride on the wings?

After a strangely abrupt final scene in which we don’t even see them land successfully, the closing credits show us snap shots of our happy bunch enjoying the rest of their lives.  Apologies for the spoilers but if you feel the way I did, you will have walked out well before this point.