The Flight of the Phoenix

Film, Action and adventure
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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.

By: TM

Release details

Duration: 149 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Robert Aldrich
Screenwriter: Lukas Heller
Cast: Ian Bannen
George Kennedy
Ronald Fraser
Dan Duryea
Richard Attenborough
James Stewart
Peter Finch
Ernest Borgnine
Hardy Kruger
Christian Marquand
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