Review: Flyboys

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  September 22, 2006 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

There have been so many movies made about World War II and so many of them are considered classics. Films like The Guns of Navarone, Midway, Dirty Dozen, and Saving Private Ryan are all considered classics of the war genre. But where are the classics when you talk about World War I and why hasn't Hollywood given us more brilliant films about that conflict as well?

You have to go really far back before you can see classic films about World War I. The real classics about World War I were made before World War II struck American shores. You have classics like 1929's Wings and 1930's All Quiet on the Western Front. Both are fondly remembered as Best Picture winners, but especially Wings, since it was the first film ever to win an Oscar for Best Picture.

Like Wings, the infamous Howard Hughes-directed epic Hell's Angels from 1930 also electrified audiences with aerial combat sequences involving flying aces of World War I. But since those two films, flying aces from World War I have never really been explored again for mainstream audiences.

This brings us to Flyboys, which reawakens the fascination with the flying ace and puts us back in the cockpit with the pilots as they struggle in death-defying aerial combat.

Flyboys tells the true story of the Lafayette Escadrille Flying Squadron who defended France during the early stages of World War I. The squadron recruited men from around the world to become fighter pilots. Some of those men were Americans like Texas rancher Blaine Rawlings (played in the film by James Franco).

The film chronicles the story of the squadron, as many men died as the newly invented airplane was commissioned as a war machine.

I have always been a fan of epic movie making. I marvel at the scope, grandeur, and execution of films made in that scale. Hollywood seems to have lost the art of making the epic without bombarding it with an all-star cast, goops of CGI, and no heart. Basically in recent years, many epics have been transformed from a grand-scale adventure film to a brainless popcorn movie.

For me, Flyboys reminded me of all those epics of yesteryear and how I used to embrace what they were. I also loved the fact that the film didn't star any Hollywood heavyweights like a Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise and wasn't directed by Michael Bay. The film felt quaint and passionate opposed to crisp and stylized. I loved the film's vision and what it tried to accomplish. If it were me, I would say that it accomplished everything it set out to do in spades.

Except for James Franco and Jean Reno, I would say I found a lot of the acting to be wooden and sometimes forced, but it also added to the flavor the film was trying to accomplish. Does it really matter if these actors aren't professionals as long as the mood and passion is there?

The stars of the film are the out-of-this-world aerial dogfight sequences that electrify the screen every time they are on. I know there is a lot of CGI up there but it didn't really matter because it showcased how thrilling, daring, and crazy those pilots truly were.

The film is directed by Tony Bill, who seems to be quite the Hollywood player. Bill produced the Academy Award-winning film The Sting in 1973, has acted in everything from Bonanza to Less Than Zero to Must Love Dogs, and has directed such underrated films like 1990's Crazy People and 1993's Untamed Heart. Bill has literally been doing everything in Hollywood since he arrived in the early 1960s.

I really loved Flyboys and I really think that Howard Hughes would have been proud if could have seen this film. (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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