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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Flight Of The Phoenix (2004/Widescreen/DTS)

The Flight of the Phoenix (2004 remake/DTS)


Picture: B-     Sound: B+     Extras: B-     Film: B-



Remakes and revivals, especially when based on TV series, are usually D.O.A. and greenlighted by money-crunching executives scared of loosing their jobs and/or (but usually “and”) seriously cinematic illiterate.  After recently covering the CD soundtrack and DVD of the 1965 Robert Aldrich film The Flight Of The Phoenix, I could not believe Fox was ready to remake it.  Matching a cast headed by James Stewart was not going to be easy, but being as bold as the original was going to be the real trick.  Unknown director John Moore was taking the helm and after several delays, the 2004 remake arrived.


It did not perform well at the box office, but was not trashed outright by the press either.  Fox did some promotion, but it was no blitz.  Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi and Tyrese Gibson were leading the new cast.  Quaid in particular keeps getting burned over and over again, deserving more credit and success that he has received.  The Day After Tomorrow came out earlier the same year and was one of his too-rare blockbuster appearances.  It turns out this film was about as good and kept more of the edge and mortality of the original than we have seen in any remake in a while.


It also does not hesitate to be what we would consider politically incorrect and that it does this with a diverse cast is impressive.  It reflects post-9/11 anger and is good at pushing the suspense envelope, though it still has a great original story to fall back on.  The performances are also impressive, but actually shooting the film half a world away is a big plus, keeping the digital work at bay.  If you like the original film, or even love it, you will be surprised how well this works out.  There are no clever references to the original as there were with the 1992 remake of Night & The City from Irwin Winkler and Fox, but it still does an honorable enough job of recovering old ground.


The original film on DVD would look as good if not better than this remake as it was shot in the 1.85 X 1 aspect ratio, but this was shot in 2.35 X 1 Panavision looking like Super 35mm and suffers softness and color poorness in subtle ways throughout.  Brendan Galvin still makes some of the shots compelling, but outside of the digital effects he has no control over which are limited, this film is no improvement over the look of the first.  The sound on that older film disappointed, while the CD soundtrack paired with Patton (reviewed elsewhere on this site) was somewhat of an improvement, but no sonic gem either.  Frank DeVol did that score, while Marco Beltrami delivers equally compelling music here.  It has punch and is not quite as militaristic, though it cannot avoid that Williams/Spielberg “feel good” formula in too many places.  As overdone is the use of hit oldies, for an even less apparent reason.  They seem like they are inserted as if they were relics of 1980s music placement thinking.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 does not make much of a difference either way.


However, when you play the film back in its DTS 5.1 mix, you realize the sound designers and editors were being cleverer than expected.  The idea is that the sound mix is being pumped up in a way that is more atypical than it first seemed.  When Paramount reissued Top Gun as a DTS DVD set, we were disappointed, as noted in the review elsewhere on the site.  Here, the film is actually upping the ante and trying to be more than a disaster film.  Unlike the atypical music-like mix on the first Fast & The Furious or the MTV clip-vid formula long tired, this film wants to keep the intensity going throughout and allows it to change and adjust to the narrative and mood of the film.  The result is an ambitious soundtrack that is one of the best you will hear this year and was too sadly neglected at awards time as not enough people had seen or heard the film.  This will be one of those rare DVDs where people will boast about how great the sound is and that the film is worth watching for a change.


Extras include a commentary by Production Designer Patrick Lumb, Moore, and co-Producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey.  This is decent, though one wishes a fifth person was there to ask additional questions.  The Phoenix Diaries shows the behind-the-scenes of the film, along with its editing and scoring.  This runs over a half-hour.  Four extended scenes and two deleted scenes that would have helped the film, but Fox wanted to get their money back.  Now that this fine DVD is out there, that seems more likely.  Fox has also wisely made it one of their early High Definition Blu-ray releases and one of the best titles they have issued to date.  See more about it at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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