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A cargo plane goes down in a sandstorm in the Sahara with less than a dozen men on board. One of the passengers is an airplane designer who comes up with the idea of ripping off the undamaged wing and using it as the basis for an airplane they will build to escape before their food and water run out. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
An enjoyable performance driven spin on the disaster movie genre
Returning from an oil field with a plane full of crew etc going on leave, Frank Towns' plane enters a sandstorm over the Sahara desert and crashes. As various attempts at rescue or escape fail one passenger, Dorfmann suggests his plan to rebuild the plane as a smaller version and attempt to fly out, leaving the bulk of the damage craft behind. However tensions mount as personalities conflict as all the men face death.
I had only ever heard of this film before I finally got round to watching it last night on television. I was aware of the basic plot and had assumed it was more recent that it actually was. I watched it assuming that it was made in the early seventies when the disaster movie genre was just starting to take off (sorry accidental pun). However this was made prior to this and is probably a much better film for it in the seventies the film would have required more spectacle, so the crash would have been much more dramatic and horrifying. As it is now, the film is more about the men under stress than it is about anything else.
This is brought out well and the majority of the drama and tension within the film is as much from these conflicts as it is from the pressure to escape the desert. The film is longer than I expected it to be but it pretty much sustains itself for that length. The main reason for the film working so well is the cast, which has it's fair share of famous faces but also has more than it's fair share of good performances.
Stewart is really strong in the lead (although, in fairness, there is no one main character) and becomes increasingly grizzled as the film goes on. His character is not without flaws even if he does come out of this well. Attenborough is also good but is less evident in the film than some of the others. Krüger has the least pleasant of the roles given that he plays a tough German. He manages to make the character likeable while still going about his task with a strict organised German air to him. Finch is good and is well supported by Fraser. The support cast includes strong performances from Borgnine, Bannen, Kennedy, Marquand and the director's own son is thrown in for colour!
Overall this is much better than the disaster-type movie I had expected as it is a film where the plane crash isn't a blaze of spectacle and the death scenes aren't played out for full effect. Instead it is a tension adventure story that is driven by some great performances by a cast full of well known actors.
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