Written by Scott Frank and Edward Burns, based on Lukas Heller’s 1965 Screenplay, which was in turn based on the novel by Trevor Dudley Smith writing as Elleston Trevor
Directed by John Moore
Starring Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Giovanni Ribisi, Miranda Otto, Tony Curan, Sticky Fingaz, Jacob Vargas, and Hugh Laurie
- Running audio commentary with director Moore, producers John Davis & Wyck Godfrey and production designer Patrick Lumb
- The Phoenix Diaries featurette
- Deleted and extended scenes
Released by: Fox Home Entertainment
My Advice: Rent it.
[ad#longpost]Frank Towns (Quaid) is a pilot. More specifically, he’s a charter pilot. His latest job is to fly to a remote oil expedition, collect the team working at the site, and return them home. However, there are a couple of things that he doesn’t count on. First, there’s an extra passenger in Elliot (Ribisi). The other is the huge sandstorm that literally tears the plane apart, forcing them to crash-land off course somewhere in the middle of the Gobi desert. So, suddenly, Towns and his co-pilot are forced to work with a group of people they’ve never met before to try to survive in the desert until they get rescued…if they get rescued. While they are waiting for someone to pick them up, Elliot has a wild idea: why not use the remains of the airplane to build a new one to fly out?
The original was amazing. The remake almost made it to that same status. First of all, Quaid was the perfect choice as Towns. He is absolutely believable as the guy who doesn’t want to take responsibility for the people around him, yet is forced to. His portrayal of the character is much darker than Jimmy Stewart‘s, but I think it works well with the update of the story. Ribisi’s character is exquisitely annoying and at several points during the movie I was actually begging for someone to knock his block off. The story is well-written, but there were several additions to the story that I didn’t think were necessary. For example, the intensity was already there without adding the danger of the nomads in the desert shooting at them. Still, for the most part, bringing the story into the 21st century worked pretty well.
The DVD is average at best. Fret not, there is a commentary track. It borders on trying to cram too many people onto the track, so it gets a bit confusing at times, but if you can get used to the sound of everyone’s voice, there is some great information here about the production and the aircraft. There are also deleted scenes, but yet again, without context, there’s really no benefit to including them on the disc. The best feature on the disc is the making-of featurette. Wow. That is a rare statement to make. It provides you with insight into the movie without being annoyingly self-aggrandizing. It also shows that the cast and crew paid a great deal of respect to the original film.
I’m a geek this way, but I suggest renting both versions of the movie and watching them both. I can’t stress the word rental enough.