17 September 2006

Movie Review: Flyboys

In 1916, 38 American civilians volunteered for aerial combat duty with the French Lafayette Escadrille squadron. At the time, the war was not going well for the Allied countries. Woodrow Wilson steadily refused to involve the US in a European war. The Germans were taking one trench after another and pushing further into France.

This is the backdrop of Hollywood’s first WW I movie in 40 years, Flyboys. The film follows members of the Escadrille from background story to missions over war torn France. The plot line follows the formula of just about every air combat film since The Bridges of Toko-Ri . The hotshot, stand off-ish old salt gives crap to the new pilots. Internal tension mounts between the new pilots due to personality differences. One of the new pilot excels far above the rest of the group and has the film’s only love interest. Moral issues and mental fatigue crop up during combat missions. A few feats of the unbelievable pop up to remind the audience this is fiction. And finally, one big bad ass enemy pilot that ties the package up into a pretty bow. Flyboys is no different in the plot department.

The plot issues, I can deal with. What has always killed me about period films is taking the history out of the film. Flyboys uses character amalgamations instead of using the stories of actual men that were part of the Escadrille. I’m not sure if there are legal reasons that screen writers take out real characters and situations, or if they think real life is too unbelievable. I can assure you that the real men and situations of the Escadrille were better than a Hollywood hack’s work. In my mind, this cheapens the memory of the brave men this film is about.

Aside from those gripes, what does distinguish Flyboys from the crowd are the aerial combat sequences. To put it in the common vernacular, it rocked. The scenes were breathtaking and, for the most part, accurate. There were several times when watching this footage, I felt a PF* of at least 2. The feel of being in a canvas and wood airplane with no parachute and bullets whizzing past your ears was visually conveyed to a tee. In that respect, I was amazed.

For the visuals alone, catch this one at a matinee to see it on the big screen.

*Pucker Factor Scale
Level 1 – Sunlight cannot shine trough
Fear Equivalency: Getting called into the boss’ office for that long overdue chat.

Level 2 – BB
Fear Equivalency: Finding out your favorite Chinese restaurant does not contribute to the ASCPA.

Level 3 – Chick Pea
Fear Equivalency: Driving on expired tags with a motorcycle cop three car lengths behind you.

Level 4 – Dime
Fear Equivalency: Smelling that dog poop scent on a bus and hoping its not coming from your shoe.

Level 5Normal
Fear Equivalency: Leaving for work forgetting your aluminum foil hat.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

But do you realize how motherfuckingpissedoff I am at Tracy Latham for NOT developing my WWI pilots comic book? I HAD COMPLETED STORIES ready for drawing!

I'm getting tired of being ahead of the popularity curve here.

Some of my favorite silent films (and faves overall) were WWI flicks, e.g., The Big Parade, Wings, and All Quiet on the Western Front (shot originally as a silent, re-shot as a talkie just in time to win the 1930 Best Picture Oscar).