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Great extras, mediocre film
on 6 February 2007
Sadly, Flight of the Phoenix is just another duff remake. Despite massive advances in special effects and a moderately exciting last two minutes, this feels even longer than Robert Aldrich's much longer original, and the reason is pretty elementary: lack of characterisation and drama. Where Aldrich typically set his flawed protagonists at each others throats in a hostile environment that was driving them mad and dealt with the way the pilot who crashes off-course in the desert turns his guilt into anger at his passengers, this is mostly feel-good stuff, full of life lessons, spiritual slogans and far too much high fiving for any self respecting survival drama - at one point they even get down and boogie. A modicum of drama is thrown in at the last minute in the wake of the key revelation about the new plane's designer, but it's so little and so late that it totters on the edge of laughable. As a result, some good actors and Giovanni Ribisi (horribly overacting the old Hardy Kruger part minus the Nazi undertones) are stranded by committee filmmaking rather than the elements and poor piloting.
Strangely, for such a bland film, the making of documentary is surprisingly gloves off, showing director John Moore in full effing and blinding mode as he throws several fits (and he's not the only one). At least one of the extended scenes (involving a biplane) was good Enough to be in the feature, and the commentary throws up the odd interesting fact amid the mutual back slapping. The result is a modest extras package that easily outshines the film.