As remakes go, "Flight of the Phoenix" (aka "The Flight of the Phoenix") is not bad but unfortunately pails in comparison to the original film of 1965. While most of the important elements from the earlier classic are present in this "updated" offering, the script and acting had major problems. Certainly Dennis Quaid makes a decent Towns, but what made the original character as played by Jimmie Stewart fascinating was his lack of leadership and decisiveness, a bit like the aviator equivalent of the captain of the Titanic. In the original, Stewart is an excellent pilot but indecisive when it comes to leadership. Quaid exhibits some of that in this version, at first rather indifferent to the reality of the plight and reluctant to be a leader.
For those who have seen neither film, the relatively simple plot is about an air-wreck in the desert, this time in China rather than the Sarah in the original. The survivors of the crash resolve to build a smaller plane from the wreckage to save themselves from the unforgiving desert. In this film, aboard the plane is a young man name of Elliot who has aviation designing experience. Through his knowledge, he designs and the men create a working plane from the one working engine of the wrecked plane.
One of the most glaring problems of the this new offering are the characters and their lines. In the film of 1965, we learn about the little eccentricities and shortcomings of the many character-survivors. In the new film, I had trouble getting a handle on the characters. They seemed more caricatures than characters. In the original, there are several members of the British army, one a by-the-book captain and the other a self-interested Sergeant. In the present film, they are all 21st-century "guys" but little about them was very distinguishable, even the one female character (not present in the original) seemed a bit too predictable.
The weakest character in terms of both script and acting was Elliot played by Giovanni Ribisi, the equivalent of Heinrich Dorfman, a German aviation engineer-designer. Elliot's script had many problems, at first acting shy and irresolute while at other times exploding unnecessarily. While Elliot's character could have worked with a better script, and you can't blame actor Giovanni Ribisi for all the problems, it's hard to beat the absolutely stellar performance by Hardy Krüger in the earlier film. In one of the most crucial scenes of the story, when it's revealed the true experience of the designer-engineer in terms of aviation, the present film played out like a scene from a soap opera. In the original, the scene gradually evolves. Also in the original, the scenes were in two parts whereas in the new version, the scene is one long drawn-out confrontation.
The main saving grace of the present offering is the visuals which are certainly stronger than the original. The wreckage and the subsequent plane built by the survivors is a bit clearer. However, the visuals can't quite make up for the poor script and mediocre directing. The director was certainly excellent in terms of the visuals, but not great in terms of making his characters shine. Again, a decent viewing but probably a one-watch at best.