Directed by John Moore, starring Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Giovanni Ribisi, Miranda Otto, Tony Curran, Kirk Jones, Jacob Vargas and Hugh Laurie.
Irish director John Moore takes on the arduous task of remaking Robert Aldrich's 1965 classic of the same name, but while staying true to the telling of the original, the Phoenix's second outing never fully lives up to expectations.
Pilot Frank Towns (Quaid) and his co-pilot AJ (Gibson) are sent to the Mongolian Tan sag Basin to retrieve an oil exploration team who have just had the plug pulled on their operation. But little do they know what lies ahead when a sandstorm begins to blow up on their journey home.
When their C-119 cargo plane loses an antenna and has its left engine ripped apart, it nosedives into the middle of the Gobi Desert, leaving the survivors completely stranded and utterly without hope. The only problem here is that this sense of desperation is not conveyed to its fullest in the movie.
What follows for the survivors is a struggle to keep their nerve. As the days pass, with no way of getting help, very little water and precious little tolerance for each other, it becomes obvious that certain death awaits them if they cannot come up with a plan, and fast.
When tag-along know-it-all Elliott (Ribisi), who is the outcast of the group, suggests that they rebuild the plane it takes much convincing to win the troops over. But with the knowledge that Elliott is in fact a plane designer they take hope in his lead, much to the disgust of Frank. Eventually the band of unlikely aircraft mechanics set to the task, with solitary lady Kelly (Otto) often required to jump in amongst feuds.
Perhaps it is merely a case that the film doesn't travel well over time. With a more sophisticated plane and more developed methods of communication, it becomes less plausible in a modern setting that the team could possess the ability to rebuild the plane and that their disappearance could go unnoticed without inspiring some kind of search effort.
That said, Dennis Quaid tackles the role of the helpless pilot very well, portraying the prevailing sense of dejection with a certain credibility, that seems lacking in the reactions of several of the other characters. But it is Giovanni Ribisi who saves the film, with his astute portrayal of the nerdy misfit Elliott, intent on getting his own way from start to finish, devious and strangely unsettling in his absolute need for control.
The stories of the rest of the oil exploration crew are never quite gripping enough. Their desperation and ensuing tragedies don't seem to have enough impact to inspire deep pity or sadness in the audience.
The story remains a powerful one but its telling lacks a lot of heart this time out.