Friday, October 13, 2006
FLYBOYS: High-Flying Action
By Reymundo Salao
In 1917, prior to the official entry into the war by the United States, the Allied powers of France, England and Italy were on the ropes against the German juggernaut. Some altruistic young Americans volunteered to fight alongside their counterparts in France. Some joined the infantry, others chose the Ambulance Corps. But 38 young men had a different idea: they decided to learn how to fly.
Their motivations for enlisting may have been different: Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) is searching for his purpose following the bank's foreclosure of his family ranch, Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine) is shamed into joining by his disciplinarian father, while African-American expatriate boxer Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis) vows to repay his debt to his adopted, racially-tolerant country. But under the command of French Captain Thenault (Jean Reno) and the leadership of American veteran Reed Cassidy (Martin Henderson), these young American men took to the air with honor everyday as they risked their lives, not just in facing the formidable German aggressors, but also in boarding their newly-invented, mechanically-imperfect aircraft, which were being used in combat for the first time.
Inspired by the true story of the legendary Lafayette Escadrille, "Flyboys" is directed by Academy Award ®-winner Tony Bill ("The Sting") and produced by Dean Devlin ("The Patriot," "Independence Day," "Stargate") and Marc Frydman (ABC's "Commander in Chief"). James Franco ("Spiderman," "Spiderman 2") stars with Marin Henderson ("The Ring") and Jean Reno ("The Da Vinci Code").
Some critics harshly criticize this as a poorly-scripted, CGI-infested film, but in my opinion, it was quite the opposite. Not once did I raise an eyebrow detecting CGI flaws. As far as I'm concerned, the shots were convincing and even outstandingly impressive. And as for the storyline, it was quite good. Not all war movies should have a complex drama storyline. This one was done with a simple story of courage, love and honor. It doesnt have to fatten itself up with script twirls and turns. FLYBOYS is a simple World War I action flick which is not pretentious enough to treat itself as a history film, and just goes on to focus on the war and the brave fighters that risk their lives for it.
It is actually a movie worth watching because "Flyboys" is the first World War I aviation film in over 40 years. There is a classic look, a vintage-type of action that we don't see often in a war movie. WWI fighter planes are very different, in the sense that they look so fragile as if they were made out of very light materials. But likewise, they look so cool and ferocious when you see them zooming in the skies and shooting machine gun ammo at each other. The aerial battles very much reminded me of the earlier STAR WARS movies which utilize the most breathtaking aerial dogfights. Especially in the zeppelin battle scene, as shown in the poster for this film, which does blow your mind. This movie is like STAR WARS in World War I. The film does have the obligatory love story, but this love story is actually quite charming and cute, and does not hinder the main storyline in any way, nor does it stand as a mere wallflower for an action film.
James Franco's look has made him sort of the posterboy for early 20th century americana, with films like The Great Raid, he fits well as the lead of this World War I film. But he does prove to be a very powerful actor and in this film, he does not fail to be one. Jean Reno who plays Capt. Thenault, the commander of the team, does a fine job but his role here is simply just the authoritative figure in the sidelines. There is more focus on the pilot characters themselves such as Eugene Skinner, played by Abdul Salis who does a fine job playing a black boxer trying to achieve his own greatness as a fighter pilot despite the fact that his kind are treated as servants during that time. Other cast such as David Ellison, Todd Boyce, and Martin Henderson all did a fine job, together melding a tale of courage, honor, and dogfight action.
There is also a ferocious seriousness in this film because whenever the action starts, the dialogues end, and all you see is the battle. During that time, there were still no transceiver radios in fighter planes, so dialogue is quite minimal and there are frequent tight shots of the actors in varied facial acting, which, in my opinion, heightens the overall cinematic tension of the movie.
My only sole letdown for the film is that it doesn’t give enough background as to why World War I occurred. Many of us have been all too familiar of World War II, but not many of us were aware of why the First one broke out. But anyway, it gives some of the audiences the curiosity to research for themselves why it did. At least, it does not treat the audience like an ignorant pupil who has to be lectured on how WWI began. Overall, FLYBOYS is a good World War I movie filled with breathtaking aerial battles, a high flying treat you will not regret. Explosive and Spectacular, you may have never seen classic battles like this before. And may I just remind you, Aerial War films like this have GOT to be watched in the wide silver screen of the movie theater so that you can really experience the full weight of its intensity first hand.