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Flight of the Phoenix is a 2004 remake of a 1965 film, both based on the book of the same name. The film opened in the US on December 17.


When an Amacor oil rig in the Gobi Desert of Mongoliamarker proves unproductive, Captain Frank Towns (Quaid) and copilot "A.J." (Gibson) are sent to shut the operation down. However, on their way to Beijing, a major dust storm rips apart one of their engines, forcing them to ditch their C-119 Flying Boxcar in an uncharted area of the desert. Their cargo consists of used parts and tools from the rig, the rig's crew, and Elliot (Ribisi), a lone drifter. On the way down, the plane is damaged beyond repair, one crew member, Kyle, falls to his death out the aircraft's damaged cargo hatch, and two others, Dr. Gerber (Ditchfield) and Newman (Hindy), die from trauma inflicted by turbulence and impact.

When the storm ends and the dust settles, it becomes apparent that they are 200 miles off course with only one month's worth of water available. Davis (Padalecki) goes out and gets lost, dies and is not found by his crew. When the rest of the group realizes that he has disappeared, they are shaken up by it and morale drops. When more decide to try leaving, Towns stops them and declares "no-one else dies." At first they decide, with the counsel of Captain Towns, to just sit and await rescue. However, after surveying the situation and realizing that their value to Amacor is less than they had originally believed, they reconsider and are pitched a radical idea by Elliot, who claims to be an aircraft designer: rebuild the remains of their C-119 into a new, functional plane. Towns initially refuses, which causes Liddle to wander off on his own out of protest. When the others attempt to go in search of him, Towns stops them and tries to make them stay put. Kelly then tosses his own words back at him, and he decides to find Liddle on his own. Taking only a small canteen of water, he sets off following the footsteps left in the sand. After a long while, with the desert taking its toll on him, he comes across a valley littered with fresh debris. This turns out to be cargo from the plane which had been dropped when the tail was cut open. Among the debris, he discovers the stripped body of Kyle, full of bullet wounds with shell casings clustered on the ground near him. At this point, Liddle appears to Towns and explains that someone had already been there and took the watch that Kyle won from him in a poker match.

They struggle for several weeks rebuilding the plane through dust storms, lack of water, and fighting amongst the group. They christen it "The Phoenix" after the legendary bird. Soon enough it is revealed that Elliot's aircraft design experience has, to this point, been restricted to the design of model aeroplanes. The problems grow when a group of bandits camp nearby and when the survivors attempt to communicate, the bandits kill Rodney (Curran) and are killed in a short, fierce skirmish when ambushed by Towns. However, they eventually are able to construct the new aircraft and take off barely in time to escape a larger group of bandit attackers.

The following epilogue was omitted and not shown in the DVD version:

Through a series of photos, we see what became of the crew when they made it back to civilization. All have been revitalized by the experience: Towns and A.J. start their own airline (appropriately named Phoenix), Sammi and his wife start their own restaurant (Jeremy and Rady are there to celebrate), Liddle is reunited with his wife and kids, Ian becomes a professional golfer, Kelly is working at an ocean oil rig and Elliot wears a flight suit on a magazine cover with the headline "NASAmarker's New Hope?"


As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):
Actor Role
Dennis Quaid Captain Frank Towns
Tyrese Gibson A.J.
Giovanni Ribisi Elliott
Miranda Otto Kelly Johnson
Tony Curran Alex Rodney
Kirk Jones Jeremy
Jacob Vargas Sammi
Hugh Laurie Ian
Scott Michael Campbell James Liddle
Kevork Malikyan Rady
Jared Padalecki John Davis
Paul Ditchfield Dr. Gerber
Martin Hindy Newman
Bob Brown Kyle
Anthony Wong Lead Smuggler


The film was shot on location in Namibiamarker. A ferry sank during transportation of a major set piece across a river forcing the river bottom salvage of the aircraft fuselage. The "Making Of" featurette on the DVD shows director John Moore losing his temper (at times violently) at the cast and crew of this film.

Four aircraft were used during the film:
  • C-119G, N15501 - flying shots. (still flies as of 2006)
  • C-119F, BuNo.131700 / N3267U - desert wreck.
  • C-119F, BuNo.131691 - Phoenix film prop.
  • C-119F, BuNo.131706 - Phoenix film prop.
  • A "Phoenix" that could be taxied but not flown was built for closeups. The ""Phoenix"" flying scenes version were done using a radio controlled model and computer graphics. (For the 1965 version of the film, a flying "Phoenix" was built. The resulting aircraft wasn't structurally strong and crashed killing stuntman Paul Mantz.)

During the filming of Flight of the Phoenix Jared Padalecki flipped his vehicle and reportedly thought he was dead.


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film was disliked with a "rotten" rating of 29%. The film had 33 fresh ratings, and 79 rotten ratings, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The main criticism was that it was very similar to the original. John Anderson from Newsday said, "if you've seen the original, there's absolutely no difference in what happens. And very little reason to check it out." Scott Brown from Entertainment Weekly gave a good review, saying "refreshingly, it's actually about action, albeit arbitrary action, and how it defines us and keeps us alive." Possibly the most scathing review, however, came from an aviation source, "Aerofiles". In its section reviewing hundreds of aviation films and noting the aircraft used in them, it stated: "The cast is purposely unlisted here to spare them any further embarrassment. Perhaps the worst remake ever of a classic film."

See also


  1. Flight of the Phoenix (2004) Full credits
  2. O'Leary 2004, p. 37.
  3. "Flight of the Phoenix (2004)." Aerofiles. Retrieved: August 9, 2009.

  • O'Leary, Michael. "By Box to Darkest Africa." Air Classics Volume 40, No. 3, March 2004.
  • Flight of the Phoenix (2004) DVD. Beverley Hills, California: 20th Century Fox (Release date: March 1, 2005.).

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