Dir:John Moore. US. 2004. 112mins.
Featuringmore special effects and fewer white males, the pumped-up re-make of RobertAldrich's 1965 ensemble drama Flight Of The Phoenix is a lightweightaction adventure apparently designed to grab as broad a range of moviegoers ascinematically possible. The push to please everyone leads to some pretty daftepisodes, but those aside the re-make is a reasonably efficient piece of hokumthat will probably serve its purpose during a quick theatrical run and, later,on TV and video.
Foxopens the PG-13 movie in the US on Dec 17, presumably with the idea of offeringundemanding relief from Christmas shopping to everyone from urban teens tosuburban parents (many of the latter will have at least vague memories of theJimmy Stewart/Richard Attenborough/Peter Finch original).
Thoughit will face stiff competition from the week old - and equally non-Christmassy- Ocean's Twelve, the heavily promoted Phoenix should be capableof a decent debut. It may even be helped by certain similarities to hit DisneyTV show Lost, which Fox has used as a domestic TV advertising platformfor the film.
Phoenix's international prospectswill depend on the state of competition in individual territories (Fox hasscheduled most openings somewhere between January and the spring). The presenceof a few non-American actors - including Australian Miranda Otto and Brit HughLaurie - will help in some markets and Fox will also be hoping that star DennisQuaid exerts increased pull after appearing in the studio's international smashThe Day After Tomorrow.
Awardwinners Scott Frank (Out Of Sight) and Edward Burns (The BrothersMcMullen) updated the original film's screenplay (by Lukas Heller) andeliminate chunks of mood-building dialogue to give the story a more streamlinedfeel.
Inthis version, the characters are introduced when cargo plane pilot Frank Towns(Quaid) and co-pilot AJ (singer-model-actor Gibson, from 2 Fast 2 Furious)arrive to evacuate an oil exploration operation in the Gobi Desert. The oil companyemployees include the no-nonsense Kelly (Otto, from The Lord Of The Rings),wimpy suit Ian (Laurie, from Stuart Little) and would-be musician Jeremy(Jones, known to hip hop fans as Sticky Fingaz). The oil workers are joined onthe evacuation flight by mysterious stranger Elliott (Ribisi, from ColdMountain).
Theplane crashes in a sandstorm (and conveniently loses its radio antenna),leaving crew and passengers stranded in the inhospitable desert. But planedesigner Elliott says he can build a new aircraft from the wreckage and Townsand the others, though sceptical at first, go along with the plan.
Notsurprisingly, the re-make is much busier than the slow moving original. Thoughit makes only limited dramatic use of the sexual, racial and class differencesamong the crash survivors, the film comes up with other diversions, includingseveral spectacular storms, a clash with a band of desert smugglers and oneludicrous sequence that has the survivors using bits of the wreckage to playalong with Outkast's jaunty song Hey Ya.
Thesupposed mystery surrounding Elliott, however, goes nowhere. And when the bigplot twist touted in the film's advertising campaign arrives it seems even lessconsequential than it did in the original film.
Irishcommercials director John Moore, who made his feature debut with air-themedaction outing Behind Enemy Lines, delivers some energetic actionsequences - most notably the over the top sandstorm crash - but lets several ofthe performances become overwrought or, in Ribisi's case particularly, justplain loopy.
CinematographerBrendan Galvin (who also filmed Behind Enemy Lines) produces someattractive desert shots, with the Namibian desert in south-west Africa standingin for the Gobi.
Prodcos: AldrichGroup, Davis Entertainment Co
US dist: 20thCentury Fox
Exec prod: Ric Kidney
Prods: JohnDavis, William Aldrich, Wyck Godfrey, T Alex Blum
Scr: ScottFrank, Edward Burns, based on a screenplay by Lukas Heller and the novel byElleston Trevor
Main cast: Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Giovanni Ribisi, Miranda Otto, Tony Curran,Kirk Jones, Jacob Vargas, Hugh Laurie