Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

Year 2, Day 103 - 4/13/10 - Movie #468

BEFORE: Wrapping up "air disasters" week - I saw most or maybe all of this movie when I was a kid - but after watching that last stinker I need a winner as mental floss, or a palate cleanser. This film deals with a plane crash in the Sahara desert, and stars Jimmy Stewart, from "Airport '77", and George "Patroni" Kennedy as well - so it should fit in rather well right here.

THE PLOT: After a plane crash in the Sahara, one of the survivors says he's an airplane designer and they can make a flyable plane from the wreckage.

AFTER: I'm glad I included this film - because though I remembered the gist of the film, I had forgotten all the neat little twists and turns along the way.

One of my favorite films is "The Great Escape" - and this has something of the same feel, it's a bunch of manly men doing manly man-things, and we see different personality types working together to accomplish a common, unlikely goal. Richard Attenborough happens to appear in both films, and that helps with the tone.

There are also similarities to the film "Alive", the biggest difference being that one film takes place in the desert, and the other in the snowy Andes mountains - but there are enough common themes about survival and rescue that I'm glad I book-ended my airplane chain with these two films.

Conflicts between the men arise, not just over disagreements about how to survive and how to attempt a rescue, but also due to the different nationalities of the men. British men, American men and 1 German have to work together - and this is not too long after World War II. Quite stereotypically, the sole German is an organized, exacting prick of an airplane engineer. There's more to him than that of course, but I can't reveal it without giving away a juicy bit of the plot...

The conflicts between the men also highlight a point I made after watching "The Perfect Storm" - you can put a bunch of men together in a completely estrogen-free situation, and even though they may hate each other, there's a great chance that the job at hand will still get done. Sure, they devolve a little bit, and several times in this film a solid punch to the jaw is considered an appropriate form of communication, but once they slug it out, it's back to the business of saving each other's bacon. Girls hold grudges, and I stand by that little factoid.

My one quibble about the film is that we only learn the personalities of a small number of the men - the crusty pilot, the exacting engineer, the defiant soldier...but there are over a dozen characters, and not all of them are given a chance to shine, or develop in any significant way.

I didn't fully understand the mechanics behind the re-building of the plane when I was a kid - this was before the days of DVRs or DVDs or even VHS tapes, I think - and you couldn't rewind when watching a film on TV. Somehow in my head I mis-remembered and thought they combined pieces of their crashed plane with another crashed plane they found - but now that I can go back and look at the opening shots of the cargo plane, I finally understand which pieces of the cargo plane came together to form the Phoenix. Fascinating stuff.

Also starring Ernest Borgnine (last seen in "Poseidon Adventure"), and Peter Finch (of "Network" fame).

RATING 7 out of 10 spanners (that's wrenches to you, Yank...)

No comments:

Post a Comment