Flyboys isn’t so much a story. It’s more like things that kind of happen. It works out fine because then you get to enjoy great action scenes without all the gloomy stuff that usually comes with war. This is the happiest war movie you’ll ever see.
Based on the true story of the Lafayette Escadrile, this chronicle of the early WWI aerial dogfights features a small town rebel, a flag waver from a military family, a reluctant rich kid and other great war movie stereotypes. They go through quick training on the newly invented airplanes and take flight against the Germans. This is before the U.S. got involved, so they’re all fighting for the French. Imagine the French as good guys.
Part of what makes all those standard characters acceptable is that none of them follow any kind of arc. They may have a scene or two where their cliché pays off, but it’s not like the whole movie is about anyone’s struggles. There’s one scene where they realize war isn’t what they expected, and two whole scenes where they learn that you can’t mourn the dead, you have to move on. Even the main character’s romance serves utterly no purpose, although she’s hot and there is a great rescue scene.
Everyone seems to really enjoy playing their characters. The rich kid acts happily smug, the know-it-all veteran tells everyone how it is without being an A-hole and the token black guy is just one of the guys who never really has to struggle. They also all look like classic ‘80s stars. There’s the new Vincent D’Onofrio, the new Matthew Modine, the new Anthony Michael Hall and more.
It’s like someone knew they were making a movie just to show off the flight scenes, but the rest of the filmmakers still thought they were telling a story. So the action scenes come at regular intervals, but it’s not too, too hard waiting for them. There are some satisfying beats: a choice that has to be made in the air, a recurring villain to fight… just simple stuff and it keeps things entertaining. Damn you, Falcon!
The flights take The Aviator to another level. The planes maneuver quickly, the sky explodes around them and it seems like a real challenge to hit your target without all our fancy modern locking mechanisms.
You don’t get much sense of the strategy here. It seems like both sides just go up to fight each other at the same time. One time they expect an attack so they go up to defend, and another they go up to take out a zeppelin (somebody call Filliam H. Muffman.) But usually it’s just “time to fight now.”
It’s a pretty nice military. Nobody shouts at the cadets or hazes them. Even the disciplinary hearings are easygoing. Maybe that’s why the French had such problems with their military.
It’s a colorful movie, with their blue uniforms, grassy fields and the red German planes. Flyboys will look great on HDTV.
At a time when military movies tend to take the overwrought epic route, it’s kind of nice to see one that’s just fun. Flyboys’ attitude seems to be, “Hey, look at the cool stuff we can do.” Thanks guys, it’s appreciated.
Stay tuned for updates.