Film Reviews Cat

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)


An airplane crashes in the Sahara desert and the question is how to survive the situation. Luckily there is a passenger on board who happens to be an airplane ‘engineer’. Will he be able to help the group?

“The Flight of the Phoenix” is a movie from the 1960’s and it has a nice twist to it. I won’t spoil the interesting part of the movie. However, towards the end it takes the audience totally by surprise and I have to admit that it is a funny and innovative concept. Although, the road towards this revelation is rather slow and boring at times because the vast majority is about conflict situations between all the different characters. For this reason the entire movie is really built around character development and setting. The latter is done rather well because you do get that real desert feeling when watching this film. However, the character development and its realism is highly problematic. What I didn’t like was that all the characters felt undeveloped, and unrealistic. It was almost like watching the board game “Cluedo” because every character had a very specific and distinct background. Moreover, they acted like Cluedo characters as well. For example; the engineer is German, Austrian or Swiss, and the soldiers are all English. And all of them also look like the stereotypical characters that they are presenting. I get it, it is the 1960’s and people wanted to make a movie about a plane crash, but this is overdoing it. 

However, if you get past the point of the clichés then you can still enjoy this film because it does have some decent dialogues. The script is not bad at all (excluding character development), in fact I would give the script itself a 8/10 but the execution is a little off. What is problematic is the length of the script because how many conflict situations can you handle without it becoming boring. I have to admit that at times I found it extremely difficult to pay attention to another conflict situation between two or more characters. This wouldn’t be an issue if something would have happened in such situations. However, the characters are only angry (most of the time) and this doesn’t result in any exciting, or dangerous situations. One exception is when one of the characters punches another one in the face, but that is really it. I guess that the message of this movie is that problems can be resolved when different personality types work together. 

The director did a great job because the Sahara desert atmosphere feels authentic to me. Additionally, the camera shots are refined and definitely have an added value to them. One might call the camera shots ‘functional’ but I really think that it is perfect for this film. Moreover, not all of the actors did a great job because some of them were simply overdoing it. I understand that this generation of actors might have ‘theater syndrome’ in the sense that they often have the tendency to behave in a melodramatic manner. However, this does make it unrealistic at times. Especially when you combine it with undeveloped characters. Maybe it also didn’t help that there was not one likeable character. The pilot should have been that person however for some reason I really didn’t like him. Maybe, this is because he always was “The pilot” and at no point we, as the audience, see him as a real developed person. 

Overall, I think that the writing is good, but is lacking character development. And  the directing is actually really good. However, the overall execution was not good at all. It had so much more potential if only a couple of other actors would have been casted instead of some of the current cast (James Stewart did a good job as “The pilot” just not a likeable character). It isn’t bad, but it is also not good. So if you are looking for a 1960’s film to watch on a rainy Sunday then you might as well watch “The Flight of the Phoenix” (1965).

Directed by 

Robert Aldrich

Writing Credits  

Lukas Heller(screenplay)
Trevor Dudley Smith(novel) (as Elleston Trevor)


James StewartFrank Towns
Richard AttenboroughLew Moran
Peter FinchCaptain Harris
Hardy KrügerHeinrich Dorfmann (as Hardy Kruger)
Ernest BorgnineTrucker Cobb
Ian BannenCrow
Ronald FraserSergeant Watson
Christian MarquandDr. Renaud
Dan DuryeaStandish
George KennedyBellamy
Gabriele TintiGabriele

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