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Film / The Flight of the Phoenix (2004)

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Flight of the Phoenix is a 2004 survival drama film directed by John Moore, starring Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Tyrese Gibson, Miranda Otto, and Hugh Laurie. It is the second film adaptation of the Elleston Trevor novel of the same name.

The film is about the crew and passengers of a downed plane in the Gobi Desert who, once realizing that rescue is not coming, attempt to build a smaller airplane out of the remaining parts of their aircraft.

The movie was not as well received as the first film adaptation from 1965.

Tropes in this remake include:

  • Actionized Adaptation: In comparison to the original, including various sequences such as a more action-packed crash sequence (which includes the propeller take mentioned below), a lightning storm which almost makes the plane's gas reserves explode, a sandstorm that nearly wrecks the construction site, and the nomad sub-plot escalating with a gun battle and the nomads chasing after the Phoenix as she tries to lift off with intent of killing the crew (in revenge for them killing some nomads in self-defense on said gun battle).
  • Adaptational Diversity: The original film has a cast of white men. In this version, the cast includes two black guys, one of whom is apparently missing an eye, a Latino guy, a woman, and a Middle Eastern guy.
  • A-Team Montage: More so than the original. There are many more scenes of construction and related montages.
  • Artistic License Physics: When the propeller comes off the engine before the crash, it flies forward as if under its own power, while staying level with the plane.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: We have here a Mongolian nomad speaking Cantonese. Though it's slightly possible that the nomad has been dealing with the company's Cantonese employee like Ian and learned the language.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Liddle's watch (it has a GPS beacon, but it turns out to be busted), the catalog from Elliot's employer (which shows that Elliot's work is designing models), the plane wreck and its contents (which are the main focus, with the construction of the "Phoenix" and all).
  • Deadly Dust Storm: The plane crashes after flying into a dust storm in the middle of the desert.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Subverted; both men who show pictures of their loved ones survive.
  • Jerkass:
    • Elliot. He takes potshots at Frank at every turn, lords his plane-design expertise over the rest of the group ("Everyone here is dispensable but me!"), takes water without considering the others, kills the raider without a second thought, and regards Rodney's death simply as a loss of manpower. He's bad enough that you nearly condone Ian's attempt to shoot him, when it's revealed that his expertise is limited to model airplanes, but not full-sized aircraft. He gets better, though.
    • Captain Towns and AJ are both Jerkasses as well. They show no concern for the roughnecks who are losing their livelihood and insult them for failing to find oil. They basically treat these people as nothing more than a thankless job that they now have to do. Towns gets into the crash because he doesn't want to be with them longer.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Elliot's killing of the raider. A gunshot wound to the chest/abdomen in the middle of the desert is a pretty much unsurvivable situation. Due to blood loss, he would have required at least twice as much water to stay alive and likely would have been subject to severe sepsis within a day or two. And you can quite easily see the anger that spread amongst the survivors just by bringing him there - a fight was not far away. Sacrificing the entire crew to delay the death (there was no real way to save his life) of someone who very recently tried to murder them is not intelligent.
  • Meaningful Name: The Phoenix. "Consumed itself in fire, rose renewed from the ashes." It's also the namesake for Frank and A.J.'s new commercial flight service, "Phoenix Aviation."
  • Midair Repair: The final action sequence includes Elliot having to climb the plane's fuselage to fix the controls as the Phoenix is picking up speed for takeoff in order for the plane to achieve this (and having to dodge gunfire from the angry nomads chasing the group as well).
  • No OSHA Compliance: Deconstructed. On the first night working on converting Frank and A.J.'s C-119 into the Phoenix, sparks from a careless circular saw wielder accidentally set fire to the aviation fuel they're burning to light up the worksite. The ensuing fire burns so much of their fuel they have to work in daylight for the remainder of the film, lest they not have enough gas to fly the plane to safety. Professional oil rig workers ought to know to be more careful of sparks when cutting or welding metal around flammable materials (many "hot work" crews even have "fire watches", a person whose job is to literally watch for fires and keep flammable materials clear of the work area).
  • Offscreen Airplane Pull-up: During the climax, the plane falls off a cliff, out of view, and then it flies back up, having achieved enough speed for lift. Roll credits.
  • The Remake
  • Riding into the Sunset: The group flies off into the sunset, and the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue begins. You never see them land. (They do land in the 1965 film.)
  • Setting Update:
    • To 2004. Note OutKast's Hey Ya! playing on the CD player, and Ian's cellphone. Outside of that, few references to time periods are mentioned.
    • Also the location has been moved from the Sahara in Libya to the Gobi desert in China/Mongolia.
  • Shirtless Scene: You have a good long look at Dennis Quaid's abs right after they finish pulling the plane.
  • Shot for Shot Remake: It's not exact, but it's pretty close. The new version does not add or subtract much.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The remake added a girl, but deserves some credit for averting a Token Romance.
  • Toilet Humor: Ian walking away with a shovel and turning the sign from "vacant" to "occupied"
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A photo montage is shown at the end, showing such things as Frank and A.J. creating a small airline, "Phoenix Aviation", and Elliot being praised (or maybe questioned) as he escalates to working for NASA.