December 17, 2004

Playing Hooky

I didn't feel like working this afternoon, so I hopped a bus to the mall and went to go and see a matinee of Flight of the Phoenix.

Dennis Quaid is, indeed, sans shirt for a few scenes.

This is good.

If you need more details than that, well, you'll find them after the jump.

Picture a glorious WWII-era, chrome coated, connected tail, cargo plane soaring over the seemingly neverending dunes of the Gobi Desert. After casting its shadow over the barren landscape for a good long while, this winged beast comes back to earth, landing in the middle of nowhere and pulling up to, what seems, are the only modern buildings---only buildings period---in a five-thousand mile radius.

The buildings comprise an oil drilling station. The arrival of this plane is not good news: it means the corporation is shutting it down and it's time to pack it up and head home. No one from the corporate headquarters has bothered to call these individuals and inform them that the jig is up: that's Capt. Frank Towns job, and is why he's earned the nasty nickname "Shut 'Em Down Towns."

Much angst is felt quickly, but the pack-up ensues and everything of value that isn't nailed down makes it onto the plane, causing overloading, the station workers load themselves up and they head out to Beijing. With one scheduled refueling stop along the way.

This is where the fun begins, in the form of a sandstorm, which Towns chooses to fly through, thinking everyone can handle it and that he's never seen a sandstorm go very high and he can beat it with altitude; the only other choice being to turn around and refuel: not an easy task in the middle of nowhere.

Bad choice.

The plane crashes, leaving the survivors stranded in the middle of the desert, two hundred miles off course, and they lost their aerial in the storm. They have water, but not enough to satisfy everyone's eight-liter-a-day requirements. They have some food, in the form of canned peaches and hearts of palm, but not enough to last them very long. Capt. Towns job rapidly becomes one of keeping people from killing themselves, by erroneously thinking they can walk out, or by the simple accident of losing their way in the middle of the night. He also breaks up quite a few fights. A stranger who had hitched a ride, Elliot, played by Giovanni Ribisi, declares that he can get them out of there: his solution being to build a new plane out of the old, using the tools they'd overloaded the plane with. Having nothing better to do, everyone hops on the bandwagon.

Flight of the Phoenix is a remake of a Jimmy Stewart vehicle from 1965, and I can see where this movie might grate on the nerves of those who loved the original. I haven't seen it, but I have to think that adding a scene wherein the rappers in the cast get to show off their skills by lipsynching to a jerryrigged ipod would annoy. But I enjoyed the movie.

Except for the scene where the rappers did their deal. Which I watched for a minute and then decided would be the perfect time to go to the bathroom. The last thing I wanted to see was Dennis Quaid or Hugh Laurie pretending to be amused by music their characters wouldn't like. Can you say contrived, boys and girls? That scene just doesn't exist for me. Just like the whole Like a Virgin song and dance number from Moulin Rouge. {shudder}

Anyway, the story is great, the effects are spectacular (if you don't like flying, I wouldn't recommend watching the crash scene as it's scary as hell), and the movie is beautifully filmed. But I found myself wanting more. Which I suppose is greedy of me, but hey, that's just me: I'm a greedy bitch by nature. You were expecting something else, perhaps?

While the setup is sufficient to establish the roles of the characters, I felt if they had just spent five to ten minutes more setting up the characters, you, the audience member, would have been that much more involved in the story. It could have been a really gripping film, but they decided to lowball it for whatever reason. Not that I have any problems with lowballing, but hey, I kind of expected better. It wouldn't have taken much to properly introduce people and give us a reason to care whether they lived or died. As it happens, one guy bought it and I just didn't care, hence it didn't make the situation more dire, which was what it was intended to do (I believe). They could have left out the rap scenes.

While I found it to be realistic, I was a wee bit surprised that Miranda Otto's character, Kelly---the lone female---never once had to fend off any male-in-desperate-straits nastiness. Not to think the worst of men, but hey, let's face it: if a guy's seeking distraction, sex becomes numero uno on the list of things to achive. It's simply the way they're hardwired. Instead of being either a vixen or prey, she was just one of the guys, and that, while being not at all unwelcome, I thought was just asking a bit much of the situation. I've been the lone female in a group of males before and have had to fend off animalistic behavior---and I wasn't marooned in the middle of the desert with very little hope of survival. That she didn't have to fend off even a pinch on the bum surprised.

There's a whopper of a twist toward the end of the movie, and Laurie does a spectacular job during this revelation. I'm not going to say any more because I don't want to spoil it, but he's good. Probably the only bit of serious thespian work in the film.

So, while I have no scoring system (three cakes out of four?) I'd say go and see it if you want some distraction from Christmas shopping. But don't pay eight-fifty: go to a matinee. You'll leave feeling that you got your money's worth. If not, wait for the DVD and see if they are able to release a Director's Cut. If they do, I have a feeling it will be better than the theatrical release.

There might be even more of Dennis without his shirt.

Posted by Kathy at December 17, 2004 09:45 PM
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