PG-13 for war action violence and some sexual content
Sept. 22, 2006
Action/Adventure, Drama, War
James Franco, Jean Reno, David Ellison, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker
MGM Distribution Company
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By Elliott Ryan
As you might guess from the film’s title, the movie Flyboys will best be remembered for its dogfights. Based on true-life events, the film tells the story of the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of young American men who traveled to Europe to fight with France in WWI in the years before their own country entered the war. The aerial battles look great.
The characters are not well defined. They appear to be a series of stereotypes. Among the featured stereotypes are a minority, a religious Christian, a rich snob, a Texas rancher (the film’s star James Franco), and a more experienced, jaded fighter pilot. Each character behaves as you would expect them to behave, and they are treated in the way you would expect them to be treated. The movie starts by introducing viewers to each of the main characters and exposing their reasons for going off to war for a country that isn’t their own.
The main characters are joined by their French counterparts whose job it is to teach the novice American pilots how to fly. The leader of the squadron is Captain Thenault (played by Jean Reno, who turns in the film’s best acting performance). The obligatory training scenes ensue.
A love story is thrown in, of course. Franco’s character falls in love with a young French woman although he is afraid she may be a prostitute. That isn’t enough to keep him from attempting to further their relationship. Of course, neither does the fact that they don’t speak each other’s language and, thus, don’t really know what they are saying to each other.
The mid-air battles are spectacular. The computer-generated special effects are visually stunning. However, there does appear to be a certain measure of realism missing. The fighter pilots look more like they just walked out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue rather than WWI fighter pilots entrenched in warfare. The battle scenes seem a bit overly sanitized. It makes it look like WWI was rated PG. I wasn’t around at the time, but I am sure it wasn’t. War never is.
If you are a fan of action movies, you will enjoy the action scenes. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of down time. At 2 hours and 20 minutes, it was just too long. There was no way the action could have stayed at a constant high. If the editor found a way to shave off 20 to 30 minutes of it, a much better movie may have been the result.
If you are looking for a true-life representation of WWI fighter pilots with richly drawn characters, move along. There’s nothing to see here.
But having said that, Flyboys is a passable entertainment diversion based loosely on a true story of men who left their comfort zone to fight for what they thought was right. There are lessons to be learned from their story. I do wonder if a war-weary nation will have any interest in heading to the multiplex to watch it though.
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