Our Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
In the early years of World War II, aviation was just becoming a suitable means of warfare. Modern machinery was catching up to ambition, and overseas forces were engaging in aerial combat. One of the more neglected historical events in the filmmaking industry, Flyboys is a gripping, emotionally-charged glimpse into the lives of a young squadron of first-time flyers.
The French are attempting to protect their borders from invading German forces. While the United States has not officially joined the war, or even begun to build up an air force, they have agreed to send ambitious young would-be pilots overseas to train and be of assistance. Among them are Blaine Rawlings (James Franco), a Texan whose family has just lost its ranch, Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine), a racist upper-class mama's boy who wants to prove his worth, Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis), a former black boxer hoping for equal treatment, and William Jensen (Philip Winchester), the latest in a line of successful soldiers. Incapable of speaking a word of French, and inexperienced when it comes to warfare and training, the boys are rapidly introduced to the difficulties of flight, and the respect that comes with success in the skies.
After Blaine and William have a misadventure in a poorly-fueled plane, Blaine is introduced to a beautiful French girl. Lucienne (Jennifer Decker) has lost most of her family in a recent bombing raid, and is left to raise her sister's three children alone on their small farm outside the compound. While Blaine attempts to break the language barrier in order to express how much he loves her, he and his comrades deal with the shock and horror of war, the thrill of flight, and the adventure the skies afford. I went into it expecting it to be a macho fighter flick without much heart, but was proved wrong. Most war movies have me reaching for the remote, but this one was nicely paced. It's not all action, and neither is it all emotion, but carries a nice balance between the two. Among fighting their own emotions are the Germans, and one in particular that makes it his mission to kill off as many American pilots as possible.
That being said, there's a surprising amount of empathy and compassion at times for fellow fighters, and enough heroism to raise a cheer from the coldest heart in the audience. The boys protect and defend one another, risking their lives for a cause they believe in and support. One of them, knowing he is about to die, makes a heroic sacrifice that brings down an enemy Fokker. I also liked the surprising little touches of the production ... the fact that one of the new boys is a devout Christian, and another has a pet lion. It also has quite a number of sad moments. Do not expect sacrifices not to be made, or for all of our heroes to come out of it alive or even intact. There's a handful of mild profanities and one use of GD. There's no sexual content, but the boys do wake up in a brothel after a plane crash, in which corset and bloomers clad girls attend to them. Blaine assumes Lucienne is a prostitute, and is overjoyed to find out she isn't. There's some drinking, and a lot of fighter plane related violence. Pilots are shot, with sometimes bloody results; their planes are riddled with bullets. One man catches a bullet in the head. Planes dive to the ground and explode, or go up in a fireball in the air. Massive attacks take out barracks on the ground, and a plane in the air. In the end, it's all about heroism, and that's something our country and our young people needs to focus on in such an hour.