The Phoenix Rises (2012) – By Misty Layne

The Phoenix Rises is directed by Drew Hall (Lightning in the Bottle, The Virgin Mattress, SkyHook) and Produced by D. Scott Lumpkin (Safe Haven, Oculus, The Strangers 2) with music composed by Page Hamilton of the metal band Helmet and Patrick Kirst (Suddenly Southpaw, An African Election) and stars: James Black (Out of Sight, Anger Management, Necessary Roughness), Adam Cardon (Ark), Catalina Soto Aguilar (SkyHook), Casey Myers (My Stepdad’s a Frickin Vampire), Robert Penny (Sweet Home Alabama), and Philip Fornah (Django Unchained). It’s a taut sci-fi thriller that’s sure to leave you hanging on the edge of your seat…IF you can figure out what’s actually going on.

Worlds collide when a team of brilliant scientists are recruited to work with a secretive government run operation called the Phoenix Program to develop counter measures for climate based weaponry. Special Agents Bob Smith and Tom Jones hand picked the team after observing their success with building the worlds first space elevator for the Bonner Prize a secret recruitment project purposed to find the worlds best and brightest. A newly formed terrorist group is using climate based weapons to hold the US and its allies hostage. Using extremely low frequency delivery methods the terrorists can cause earthquakes, alter rain patterns, cause droughts, and create deadly storms seeming out of thin air; but the terrorist threat is not the only challenge for the team. A deadly, vindictive mercenary from their past, Jamal Duegro, has launched a revenge operation to reacquire technologies his clients want returned to them and will stop at nothing in order to protect his interests.

That’s the summary pulled from the The Phoenix Rises website. Is that what actually happens in the film? Honestly, I have no idea. And I watched parts of it twice. I know there were a bunch of scientists because most of the movie is set in a lab of some sort and I know there was the mention of weather but other than that? There’s a bad guy who is consistently subtitled even though he’s speaking English and a bad woman (also subtitled but I think she’s speaking German)…there’s two women who are eventually kidnapped and kept in a drain pipe or something because they have the knowledge to build a certain science thing…and then there’s a lot of cuts between scenes involving loud static noises and wigged out static screenshots that more annoyed me than anything else. I’m not sure if this was something along the lines of The Matrix or Alice in Wonderland as the end left me wondering if everybody was dead, asleep or just in some alternate world.

While the plot left me confused, the acting more than made up for it. The movie has a core group of about 8-10 people as the scientists and while there were no particular standouts amongst the group, I never really doubted that this bunch knew what they were talking about and considering that the writer is a former DOD Nuclear Physicist from the cold war era which puts the science on the same level as character development, that’s saying something, so major kudos to the entire cast here. (Also maybe that was part of my trouble in understanding this movie – no SyFy science here but the real actual thing – and while I’m no slouch intellectually, science was never my strong suit). Other than the random screeching/staticy cut scenes (think an old school t.v. with antennae that’s losing it’s signal), I had no problems with the cinematography. I was also fond of the set design – the labs looked good.

So yes…I think I’ll leave this one with a “not for me but if you’re into sci-fi thrillers a la The Matrix I think you’ll probably love it” rating. If you want to find out more about The Phoenix Rises, check out their website or IMDB page to watch the trailer and get the latest news!

*Upon further research, it looks like this movie is the 2nd in a trilogy, so I can’t help but wonder if I would have followed this movie better if I’d seen the first or if I’d be equally confused.*