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Blu-ray Review: Flight of the Phoenix

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A remake of a solid 1965 survival movie, Flight of the Phoenix is a routine, dull, and standard drama. The characters are the expected stereotypes, the conflicts predictable, and the tension lacking. Only the special effects and plot twist highlight this rather dreadful thriller.

After their plane crash lands in the middle of the Gobi desert, the lot of survivors deal with the typical problems this genre provides. Food and water consumption need to be monitored, escape plans argued over, and the characters all have personal issues to handle. Given the sparse (although beautiful) landscape, there’s not a lot to do here.

The cast seems to struggle to gain screen time. None of them are well developed, and Giovanni Ribisi is impossible to grasp. His character pops out at random intervals, existing only to deliver the crucial plot twist that fans of the original are already aware of.

Dennis Quaid delivers an uneven performance as the hotheaded jerk involuntarily chosen to lead the band of crash survivors. It’s one cliché after another as he delivers the array of dialogue you should expect from a movie like this, yet hope you don’t actually hear.

The plan to escape from the scorching desert is to rebuild the crashed plane into a different model. Ribisi’s character is the mastermind, though the reveal of who he truly is never makes sense as to why he was with this group in the first place. A secondary plot involving a roving band of nomads also goes nowhere other than to add some extra drama to the finale. The amount of action their appearance provides isn’t worth the rest of the screen time.

At the least, the special effects are vivid. The crash is delivered by an amazing miniature, and the swirling sand kicked up by the numerous storms is an impressive sight. Lightning effects off in the distance also deserve mention.

That said, there’s not enough story here to carry this one. The static locale is boring to look at after time, the eventual escape plan funnier than it is serious, and none of the characters can connect with the audience. This illogical, unnecessary remake thankfully tanked at the box office. Apparently, no one found the subject matter compelling.

A few excessively grainy shots and some noise on bright whites are the only knocks against this fine Blu-ray transfer. The crisp, sharp transfer delivers excellent detail. The desert looks beautiful, and the disc holds up against the heavy sand without problems. Black levels are strong, though could be deeper.

When the movie picks up, so does this DTS Master mix. The plane crash is a stunning array of surround work, subtle audio details inside the plane, and thumping bass as it hits the ground. An explosion late into the movie is likewise spectacular, and gunfire during the finale is wonderfully immersive. This one could use some better ambient work as dialogue scenes have nothing to offer in terms of rear speaker usage even with the potential to do so.

A running trivia track is one of three extras. A commentary from director John Moore, producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey, and production designer Patrick Lamb make up the second feature. Finally, the always exciting trailer is included. This is missing multiple features of its DVD cousin.

Unlike the original, this remake uses extensive CG and miniature for all its plane shots. The reason was simple. The stunt man for the ’65 version, longtime stunt pilot Paul Mantz, crashed the unstable piece and was killed on set.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.