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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Flight of the Phoenix (2004/Special Edition)
Flight of the Phoenix (2004/Special Edition)
Fox // PG-13 // March 1, 2005
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted February 23, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Although his "Behind Enemy Lines" got a bit of a mixed reception, I enjoyed the film, which was the first major studio effort of director John Moore. The picture shouldn't have worked as well as it did: it was the very definition of "MTV style", with whip-fast pans, flashy edits and camera moves crowding every scene. Yet, the film merged fine performances from Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman and others with the film's visual energy and the result was an very watchable popcorn film, although one that, unfortunately, never dealt very well with an issue it focused on (Bosnian/Serbian conflict.)

His latest picture is "Flight of the Phoenix", a remake of a 1965 picture. This edition was written by the interesting pairing of Scott Frank ("Get Shorty", "Out of Sight") and writer/actor/director Edward Burns ("The Brothers McMullen", an actor in "Saving Private Ryan"). The film stars Dennis Quaid as Frank Towns, a pilot that has been given the assignment of taking home the members of an oil rig after the operation has not pulled up enough to turn a profit.

Aside from Towns, there's his co-pilot (Tyrese Gibson), the rig exec (Miranda Otto from "Lord of the Rings"),weird guy that doesn't look as if he belongs (Giovanni Ribisi) and a few rig workers. On their way back, they run into a massive sandstorm that quickly engulfs the plane, sending it into the desert, with parts falling off the plane as it falls towards a not particularly smooth emergency landing.

After the crew collect themselves, they take stock of the situation. The good news: they have enough food to last them a little while. The bad news: they have enough food to last them a little while, they're in the middle of nowhere, the compass they have wouldn't work because the mountains around them contain magnetic rock and, even if they did want to walk, there's no way they would survive the conditions - they happen to be there during the hottest month of the year. Oh yeah, and they have no way of communicating with the outside world.

So, the odd one out (Ribisi) comes up with a suggestion: he thinks they can rebuild a plane from the parts of the existing one. He thinks this, despite the fact that they've lost necessary parts from the original. With no other hope, they decide to set to work on the project. Of course, with the rising temperatures come rising tempers, and the survivors also have to face potential threats that happen by their crash site.

The film marks a pretty sizable change from director Moore from his last film. Instead of the intense cuts and pans and editing tricks, he's kept "Flight" pretty straightforward. There are some neat tricks (saturated "flash-forwards" that show us what would happen to a character) here, but they serve the picture pretty well. The screenplay he's working with, on the other hand, is not exactly up to the task: the dialogue isn't too great, which is surprising from the pairing of Burns and Frank. There's also some events that aren't particularly believable, although not so much that it was difficult to turn off my suspension of disbelief. Brendan Galvin's cinematography is striking, as well - the scenery could have made for a flat-looking picture, but the colors remain saturated and rich.

There's also enough characters packed in so that some get shorted in terms of character development, and end up as rather one-dimensional. The middle of the film is also a tad uneventful, and the picture never quite gains the level of tension it could have. The cast does give it a good try, however. Quaid is a respectable leader and carries a lot of the film quite well. Gibson is also good as his co-pilot. Ribisi's creepy performance doesn't exactly fit in with the movie, but it's rather fascinating to watch. Otto is wasted a bit in a minor role. Overall, the ensemble did well enough to keep me engaged and care basically about what would happen to these characters.

Overall, "Flight of the Phoenix" is a basically enjoyable popcorn picture. The screenplay could have used some work and the middle of the picture could have used some tightening, but it works well enough.


VIDEO: "Flight of the Phoenix" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is largely excellent, with little in the way of the usual concerns. Sharpness and detail were often quite good, although they were a tad inconsistent at times, with some wider shots looking a tad softer than the rest.

The picture appeared free of edge enhancement and pixelation, which made for a natural, crisp-looking image. The print also looked in great shape, with no specks, marks or other faults. Colors were rich and bold, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, a great effort.

SOUND: "Flight of the Phoenix" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Those who can enable a rear back surround should do so, as it certainly makes the experience sound more enveloping. There's a few flyovers that also sound great with it. Surround activity isn't constantly present, but there's some great use of effects scattered throughout the middle of the film (a thunderstorm, for example). The crash sequence early on also sounds terrific, and makes fine use of the rear speakers. Audio is nicely spread across the front soundstage, as well. Audio quality is excellent, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue and effects. Bass remained strong, deep and tight in the action sequences. The DTS soundtrack seemed a bit crisper and more seamless, but both tracks provided an enjoyable listening experience.

EXTRAS: "The Phoenix Diaries" is a sharply edited and slick 41-minute documentary that is informative and often greatly entertaining. In the middle of rather harsh conditions, the cast and crew find working rather difficult at times, and some production issues cause director John Moore to lose it here-and-there, screaming and cursing up a storm at his crew. The interviews with cast and crew are enjoyable and honest, and the documentary provides a very "all-access", straightforward look at the production at work. Definitely one of the best "making of" documentaries I've seen on a DVD lately.

There's also a commentary from Moore, producer John Davis, producer Wyck Godfrey and production designer Patrick Lamb. We learn more about shooting in harsh conditions in Namibia, creating the look of the film, casting and some stories from the set. It's a little low-key at times, but pretty informative and worthwhile for fans of the film. Finally, there's also 4 extended scenes and two deleted scenes with optional commentary.

Final Thoughts: "Flight of the Phoenix" was an average adventure picture that just held my interest. Those who are interested should certainly try it as a rental - it's not bad, as popcorn movies go. Fans of the film should seek a purchase, as Fox has put together a very fine DVD, with solid image quality, very good audio and a nice helping of supplements.

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