Making the Grades
No need to warn of approaching turbulence! You can see it coming in this movie. Set in Outer Mongolia on the Gobi desert, Dennis Quaid plays pilot Frank Towns who, with his assistant A.J. (Tyrese Gibson), shuttles oil field workers to and from remote rigs. His latest assignment is to pick up a gang of roughnecks after their well is determined to be a failure.
Upset at having to resign her station, female crew chief Kelly (Miranda Otto) isn't happy to see the pilot and his tattered C-119. Reluctantly, she and her team board the plane along with one "extra," a mysterious guy named Elliot (Giovanni Ribisi). Out to see the world, the traveler simply showed up at their camp in the middle of the desert looking for a ride home.
If your eyebrows are rising, you likely know the rest of the story. The diverse group takes off over the remote dunes, only to find themselves in a raging sandstorm. Cocky captain Towns figures the old boat will make it through the dust... and he doesn't want to turn back. But in the passenger area, Elliot is openly critical of the pilot, advising the others the plane is too overweight to make it.
Sure enough, an engine begins to sputter, and we witness a spectacular crash to the sandy surface-- one guy even falls out of the broken tail in midair. After the plane finally sheds its tremendous potential energy and comes to a rest, the cast does the usual: They scream at each other, lay blame, and determine how many days of water they have left--in this case thirty.
Next they form the inevitable factions--those with the captain and those against. Towns feels they are best to sit tight and do as little as possible to conserve water. Another is certain they should set out across the barren wasteland, and he's determined to go it alone. His quest is squelched however, after he's told any hope of finding civilization is impossible due an old map, their uncertain location, very hot temperatures and--the most creative of all-the magnetic mountains that make your compass "dance."
The best plan? Elliot suddenly has an idea: Take the one good engine and rebuild the plane with the hopes of getting everyone out. Towns doesn't like it because the physical exertion will use more water, until events finally make him recognize doing anything will give the survivors some glimmer of hope.
From a parent's perspective, the tense crash and three on-screen shootings may be of concern. The script is also sprinkled with a moderate amount of profanities--usually with a scatological theme, as well as one muttered (and unnecessary) use of a sexual expletive. Plus our hero, Captain Towns, smokes cigarettes on two occasions. On the positive side, the continual contention in this group of men and one woman does eliminate any sexual situations.
A remake of a 1966 movie starring Jimmy Stewart, Flight of the Phoenix is definite popcorn material. It opens fast and closes on a high note, but the middle loses altitude with predicable lines, implausible circumstances and people making irrational decisions.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Flight of the Phoenix.
How did arguing affect this group’s chances for survival? How did dishonesty and mistrust also hinder their ability to bond together? Could these same issues be preventing you or your family from reaching your full potential?
A man, who claimed not to be religious, suddenly shows he has belief in a spiritual omen. When questioned, he claims “Spirituality is not religion. Religion divides people.” How do you feel about that statement? How do movies usually portray organized religion and individual spirituality?
In this movie, nomads of the Gobi Desert are depicted as thieves and brutal killers. You may want to check the amazing docudrama The Story of the Weeping Camel to see real Gobi Desert nomads. Can you think of other movies that distort a particular group of people?