Flyboys (2006)

Perhaps it is the lack of World War One films that got me instantly intrigued in the film Flyboys. Here we get a glimpse into Americans that volunteered for the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of American fighter pilots that fought before America entered the “war to end all wars.” In this early era of airplanes, this was dangerous to the point of bordering on suicidal as their life expectancy was measured in mere weeks.

The plot follows the young men of the squad from their joining up in the US, to their training, and on to combat. There is, as is almost predictable in these films, a romantic interest between one of the pilots and a French woman that intertwines the rest of the story.

On the downside, Flyboys is quite formulaic. We start with too many pilots to follow easily, but one by one they die off until we have it down to a core group to follow. There wasn't much surprise here as this 2 hour and nineteen minute film plodded along at points that probably could have been trimmed down to a more compact story of under two hours.

With those criticisms out in the open, there was a lot to like about this film. Visually, the film is quite strong as we show the biplanes flying over a rural France of World War I with its farmland, and rivers. The combat scenes are also very well done. Sure, it’s all digital effects, but how else can we see First World War biplanes dogfight, and even take on a zeppelin? In my view, these special effects truly are the spotlight of this film.

Overall, being a history, military and aviation buff, I did enjoy this film. Even for those that don’t share these interests, Flyboys is still a visual masterpiece at points, hampered by an average plot. Hollywood doesn’t make too many epic films anymore because of the financial risks involved, but this one takes its place in that grand tradition. It’s a shame that it was in theaters around the same time as Flags of Our Fathers which got all the attention, because Flyboys is a far better film. If you missed this one, definitely check it out on DVD; just be prepared with some extra popcorn for this long film.

Overall Grade: B+

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