Director: Tony Bill
Starring: James Franco, Jean Reno, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 82 (Solid action keeps it airborne)
American men volunteer to become pilots and fight for France’s Lafayette Escadrille in World War I.
Flyboys is a remarkable showcase of riveting action in the air. Watch this film for its thrilling dogfights, which more than make up for the generic, clunky, and unfinished drama on the ground.
Flyboys takes us back to World War I, an era that Hollywood rarely touches. Indeed, Hollywood was so reluctant to fund this movie that the producers had to scrounge together $60 million of their own money just to make the film. But the risk paid off. Flyboys sparkles in recapturing the honor and brutality of World War I aerial combat. As an action film and as a war film, Flyboys is a gem.
In many ways Flyboys is a throwback to the old-fashioned, traditional war films of fifty years ago. John Wayne could have played the main role of Rawlings, an American rancher who volunteers to fight for France’s Lafayette Escadrille. The generic plot is straightforward and often predictable as it drives home the horror of the war in the air, and the courage and the cowardice of the men that flew as the world’s first fighter pilots. There are plenty of grimaces and steely glares, and the obligatory romantic interest.
Yet what the film lacks in originality of plot, it makes up for with its dynamic action sequences. The twisting, close-range dogfights of World War I are captured with a deft combination of digital and real aircraft. Using motion-captured acrobatic plane footage as the basis for the movements of its digital aircraft, Flyboys is a collage of impeccably crafted battles in the air. There is nothing in film history that comes close to capturing the gripping violence in the skies of World War I like this film. The producers string these scenes together with a nice balance of chaos and flow. Although at times I got confused as to who was who in the air, for the most part the action is remarkably easy to follow.
The producers also did a wonderful job in mixing up the action. This film could have easily become a redundant series of identical dogfights, but instead we’ve got a wide range of scenes. There are duels, mass dogfights, zeppelin attacks, bomber runs, and even a thrilling rescue scene on the ground in no-man’s land.
While the action is clearly the strongpoint of Flyboys, it gets help from decent acting and a passable script. James Franco is adequate yet undistinguished in his lead role, but gets help from Jennifer Decker, as Rawlings’ French love interest. Decker positively shines in her role,
and lends a remarkable charm to her character. Tyler Labine and Abdul Salis also deserve praise in their roles as American pilots. All in all, they engage us just enough for us to care about what happens in the air. Elsewhere, the cast is average.
While Flyboys shines in the air, however, it struggles on the ground, and this keeps the film from rising to any level of greatness. The movie toggles between action in the air and drama on the ground, but the drama on the ground feels incomplete and unfinished. As a matter of fact, in some ways the film itself feels somewhat unfinished. A significant element of the story on the ground is the convincing and charming romance between Rawlings and Lucienne, a local French girl played by Decker. Yet, while the action in the air reaches a satisfying conclusion, this romance inexcusably gets concluded with one sentence flashed on screen as the movie ends. Huh? Many of the sub-plots as well ultimately go nowhere and end in dead-ends. You could argue that this is a nature of war—lives cut short and all—but even for a war film the drama on the ground in Flyboys is more of an interlude to the action in the air than it is a strength of the film. While the weak sub-plots and two-dimensional characters don’t impact the action in the air, they do lessen the amount we end up caring for the pilots when they fly and die.
As for our babes and hunks rating, Jennifer Decker is in essence the only woman of note in the film, and she does give the babe rating a nice nudge up with her mellifluous French. The hunk rating is sky high, with Martin Henderson leading the way in a handsome cast.
In the end, Flyboys is a remarkable showcase of riveting action in the air. This film is worth watching for its thrilling dogfights alone, which more than make up for the generic and clunky drama on the ground.
Remarkably, the film includes 850 digital scenes yet cost only $60 million to make.
Consistent Premise: 90
Body Count: 65
Time to First Dead Body: 38 minutes, 39 seconds
Special Effects: 95
[tags]Flyboys, World War I movie, action movie, movie review, Tony Bill, James Franco, Jean Reno, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker[/tags]