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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After the plane is pulled into takeoff position , Bellamy goes over to the port wing and disconnects the harness, then he goes over to get the monkey, the camera scans back and shows Towns holding the ladder and the harness is still attached. See more »
"The Flight of the Phoenix", based on the Elleston Trevor novel, has little more than one set and no costume changes; and the action is confined to the few yards around an airplane crashed in the desert. Yet its story is more gripping than most "action" movies.
An old airplane owned by an oil company crashes at the hands of a crusty old pilot (James Stewart) whose bitterness and fatalism are brought out when he's forced to admit the crash was due to pilot error. His half-alcoholic navigator has insured that the plane was off course, and cannot be discovered by rescue craft (if any); he's a nice guy and becomes the mediator between the rancorous passengers and crew, but he lacks self-confidence (Richard Attenborough in a finely understated performance). The passengers include a company accountant (Dan Duryea); a shell-shocked employee (Ernest Borgnine, by turns touching and silly) sent home in the company of his doctor (Christian Marquand); a straight-laced British officer (Peter Finch) and his mutinous sergeant (Ronald Fraser); several oil company employees, including one who is always making vicious jokes at the expense of the others (Ian Bannen); and a German "designer" (Hardy Kruger) who went to the oil fields to visit his brother.
Stranded in the desert with no hope of rescue, they debate various schemes for salvation, all of which fail, until Kruger tells the others he is an airplane designer and he has discovered a way to build a new plane from the spare parts of the old one. All it needs for a handful of unskilled men, living on a little water and no food but pressed dates, coping with unbearable heat during the day and unbearable cold at night, to transform themselves into aircraft manufacturers before they all succumb.
All performances are good. Some of the actors (George Kennedy, the always interesting Dan Duryea) are woefully underused -- perhaps large segments of their roles wound up on the cutting-room floor. The major tension is the confrontation between Stewart's old-school pilot and Kruger's technologically self-righteous engineer (at one point, Stewart's character makes the incredibly prescient remark that one day the little men with their slide-rules and computers will inherit the earth).
Even when they all decide they'd rather attempt building the new plane with hope than sit around watching each other die, new surprises spring up that compromise the whole thing.
The script and the acting are solid, especially James Stewart in a different and challenging role. The music is sometimes overwhelming, and stings give unnecessary emphasis to some lines. Also of interest is the listing in the credits of "The Love Theme" which seems like a silly thing to call it.
A superlative story of men living on the ragged edge of survival, working together but not necessarily getting along or surrendering their own values.
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