Basically a disaster movie about survival problems when a cargo-passenger plane crashes miles from anywhere in the Arabian desert. The pilot (Stewart), conscious of his responsibility for the lives of all concerned, suffers doubts; his navigator (Attenborough), a man accustomed to relying on the bottle for his courage, starts shaping up; a regular army officer (Finch) courts suicide because he blindly insists on playing by regulations...So far, so conventional, although beautifully characterised and directed by Aldrich with a grip that keeps tension high and heroics low. What takes the film right out of the rut is the gradual emergence of the group's saviour: a youthful German designer of model aircraft (Kruger), who develops a strain of pure Nazi fanaticism in his determination to prove that he can build a plane which will fly from bits of the wreck. He does it, too, although his only previous experience has been in toy-making; and in doing so, he raises spiky questions about leadership (democratic/dictatorial) and the survival of the fittest. A fadeout handshake of mutual congratulation finally shoves those questions aside - this is a Hollywood movie, after all - but not before they've achieved their abrasive task.
The Flight of the Phoenix
Cast and crew