Flyboys Movie Review
James Franco stars in Flyboys, an old-fashioned, romantic war adventure story that has its moments but is ultimately not very memorable.
Franco plays American Blaine Rawlings, who travels to France during WWI to become a fighter pilot. As fighter planes are only a few years old, the concept of becoming a fighter pilot is both alluring and more dangerous than it is today, as the bi-planes aren't exactly the most reliable of machines. In fact, according to the movie, the life expectancy of pilots is three weeks. Of course, while over there, Blaine falls in love with a beautiful French girl (Jennifer Decker).
Flyboys offers a rare look at World War I, and also a rare look at the fighter pilots in World War I, but unfortunately fails to make the grade in delivering a tense and powerful war film. While a good deal of money was clearly put into the air battles, it doesn't seem like MGM ever wanted to make more than a mindless action-romance. Flyboys jumps from one battle to the next, mixed in with long stretches of not overly-engaging scenes that don't do much to build its characters. The drama is cliché , and the romance not particularly intriguing. The only real thing going for it is that it knows what it is and never tries to be something more.
The highlights of the movie are certainly the battle scenes, but unlike in normal war movies, the battle scenes here are treated more as entertaining action than compelling, true-to-life tension. Surprisingly, the battle scenes are quite bloody at times, especially for a rather harmless PG-13 movie. Still, it's nice to see action that isn't commonly seen in movies. At the same time, the setup for said battle scenes are just awful. The movie builds to no resounding climax, and each air battle seems the same as the last. There is one that stands out more than the rest, that of the pilots taking on a bunch of tri-wing German planes and a zeppelin, but surprisingly, this battle is not treated as the climax to the story.
Flyboys is mildly entertaining, but lacks real substance. The acting is only okay, as Franco turns in a decent performance but Jean Reno is wasted as a cliché commander. The action scenes are good, but director Tony Bill really doesn't know how to piece them together effectively. Flyboys is a war movie that feels like an adventure film, and thus lacks the emotional tension you'd expect.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.