Robert Aldrich’s The Flight of the Phoenix concerns a plane populated by oil company employees and military men that, due to a monstrous sand storm, crash lands in the Saharan desert. Forced to cope with the dawning realization that no rescue party is forthcoming and their water supply is depleting, the men – led by Capt. Frank Towns (Jimmy Stewart) and his right-hand man Lew Moran (Richard Attenborough) – are convinced by German airplane engineer Heinrich Dorfmann (Hardy Kruger) to build a new plane from the old plane’s damaged parts. As in The Dirty Dozen and The Longest Yard, Aldrich’s characters are, in one way or another, outcasts – Stewart’s pilot is an over-the-hill relic, Ernest Borgnine’s Cobb is leaving work because of “mental exhaustion,” Attenborough’s sidekick is a drunk, and Kruger’s mysterious Dorfmann is not the man he purports to be – and the director once again gets exciting mileage out of examining male codes of honor and behavior. The stranded men’s arrogance, selfishness and cowardice all come to the fore during the ordeal, and the central conflict of egos between Towns and Dorfmann resonates as a philosophical battle between not only old-world, hands-on ingenuity (Towns) and modern, analytical discipline (Dorfmann), but also between cocky, can-do American resourcefulness and cold, clinical German efficiency. Aldrich composes shots of these two adversaries for maximum tension – the characters always seemingly in conflict within the frame – and their eventual reconciliation winds up being a subtle, hopeful nod toward gradually thawing post-1945 relations between their respective homelands.