As remakes go, John Moore's adventure drama Flight Of The Phoenix is a much smoother ride than Robert Aldrich's 1965 James Stewart vehicle. Perhaps though, a few bumps and scrapes would've benefited this story of a motley crew of oilrig workers left stranded in the Gobi Desert after a plane crash. It lacks a real sense of urgency, but there's enough turbulence among the survivors to keep things interesting and the underrated Dennis Quaid quietly sizzles in the starring role.
He's hard-bitten pilot Frank who reluctantly assumes leadership of a group which includes too-cool co-pilot AJ (Tyrese), hotheaded Ian (Hugh Laurie) and the strong-willed Kelly (Miranda Otto). But amidst these clashing temperaments, the one passenger who really gets under Frank's skin is know-it-all engineer Elliott (Giovanni Ribisi), especially when he challenges his authority with an outlandish plan to build a new plane from the wreckage of the old one.
"IT'S QUAID THAT SPARKS THIS STORY TO LIFE"
Annoyingly, Ribisi delivers a cheap parody of Hardy Krüger's original portrayal, affecting Nazi undertones even down to the platinum blond crop and wire-rimmed spectacles. Thankfully, the other players take a more subtle approach and Otto is especially good, introducing a feminine dynamic while avoiding the 'tough cookie' clichés.
It's Quaid though, and his tricky blend of egoism and integrity that sparks this story to life. While the matter of survival in one of the world's most hostile environments is never fully exploited, Frank's struggle to keep a grip remains compelling. Instead of a white knuckle thrill ride, Flight Of The Phoenix coasts on the charm of its leads and just about stays aloft.