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The Films of John Singleton


Flight of the Phoenix

Tyrese Gibson and Kirk Jones in Flight of the Phoenix
Tyrese Gibson as AJ; Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones as Jeremy

Flight of the Phoenix one-sheet The new fans Tyrese Gibson won with his movie-stealing turn in the hit 2 Fast 2 Furious would probably be disappointed and perhaps a little dumbfounded at the choice of his next film, Flight of the Phoenix. After all, taking on one of a number of supporting roles in a fairly low-profile studio film doesn't seem to be the best way to capitalize on one's momentum as a screen star on the rise. But for someone looking to diversify oneself as a film actor, it's an understandable move.

Gibson (back to using his full name in the credits) is very much the team player in John Moore's remake of Robert Aldrich's 1965 Jimmy Stewart crashed-plane-in-the-desert drama, and physically he's almost unrecognizable from his previous work--not only in film, but in his other multimedia entertainment interests. For the role of A.J., co-pilot to Dennis Quaid's Frank Towns, Gibson packed on 45 pounds to his normally, famously lean frame, and he sports a bit of hair growth on his usually clean-shaven head. The intent was to look older and hence a more plausible peer to Quaid, which he definitely does. It's too bad such commitment and dedication went to a part written as nothing more than a rather thankless right-hand/yes-man to the lead. With his changed appearance and really not much material with which to work, Gibson recedes into the background with most of the cast members, the exceptions being the focal trio of Quaid, Miranda Otto (the token female), and Giovanni Ribisi (playing a mysterious eccentric with a bold escape plan). For what little is required of Gibson as part of the ensemble--get tossed around a plane in a big FX-generated sandstorm (easily the film's most impressive sequence), help his fellow crash survivors build the titular Phoenix, dance to Outkast's "Hey Ya" in a particularly stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb scene--he gets the job done, but ultimately this part plays as a placeholder/timemarker before his next real screen role.

But, as mentioned, there are benefits to Gibson's involvement in this film, just not ones that are readily apparent while watching it. First, it's his first supporting/ensemble role, and the ease with which he transformed himself and blends into the cast shows his ability--and, perhaps more crucially, willingness--to take on more varied character work. Second, it marks his first experience on a lengthy overseas shoot, as the film was filmed in Africa (with the desert in Namibia doubling as the film's location in Mongolia's Gobi Desert). But most importantly, it's his first feature not to be under the direction of John Singleton--and making that move outside of the nest of his movie mentor is key to carving out a lasting, interesting, and rewarding acting career.

--Michael Dequina, December 30, 2004

Tyrese Gibson (third from right) and the cast of Flight of the Phoenix
Tyrese Gibson (third from right) and the cast of Flight of the Phoenix

  • Flight of the Phoenix: The Full Review
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  • Flight of the Phoenix Soundtrack CD
  • Flight of the Phoenix: The Official Site
  • Flight of the Phoenix @ The Internet Movie Database

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    The Films of Tyrese Gibson: Flight of the Phoenix/text and site design 2004-2005 Michael Dequina
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