Flyboys (2006)

Action, Adventure, Drama, History, Romance, War
James Franco, Jean Reno, Jennifer Decker, Scott Hazell
The adventures of the Lafayette Escadrille, young Americans who volunteered for the French military before the U.S. entered World War I, and became the country's first fighter pilots.
A poorly scripted history-rewriting exercise with mediocre acting and unconvincing CGI battle scenes.
  • 22 Sep 2006 Released:
  • 30 Jan 2007 DVD Release:
  • $13.0M Box office:

All subtitles:

Trailer:

Twenty minutes worth4/10
There are five combat sequences that make this flick worth your ticket--maybe 20 minutes worth seeing in the entire film. The CGI is excellent, especially the Gotha bomber. Wow. And the Zeppelin ain't bad.

Having said that: It's riddled with factual and historical errors, ALL of which were avoidable had the writers/director cared to pay attention. (It probably would have cost nothing to do it right.)

A short list would include: Nonexistent aircraft in 1916 such as the Fokker Triplanes (all of them red except the black one!), Sopwith Camel, SE-5, and Bristol Fighter.

The concept of training pilots to fly in a combat squadron is of course absurd but the director apparently thought it necessary as a plot device.

French airmen learning to fly in a British airplane (Sopwith Strutter) is equally absurd.

For the real hair splitters, the Gotha and some triplanes have the straight-edged Balkan crosses that appeared two years later. Other fingernails on the blackboard include "9mm Spandau" machine guns (they were 7.92 Mauser) and "canvas" covering on the wings when cotton or linen were used because canvas was much too heavy.

But beyond that, the script takes a pedestrian approach to what could have been a more evocative, even inspiring, film. There are no standout performances, and the syrupy, chaste romance goes nowhere. The only reason for including it probably was to draw in more of an audience as a date flick (not quite a chick flick.) For those of us who truly enjoy aviation films, this one proved a major disappointment but hey, within limits, almost any WW I flying flick is better than no WW I flying flick.
Entertaining8/10
Very Entertaining. I will recommend it. Attention to detail was very factual, such as filing the bullets so they wouldn't jam and the Spandaus having to be hand cocked. Drideckers, the three winged Fokkers; did not enter the war until the very end. There were also two lions; Whisky and Soda, who were later banned to the stables because they kept peeing all over the chateau. The characters were very well done and told a good story. I hope it makes people look up the fliers and read about them. There were quite a few men that made up the Esquidrille and all were very interesting. When fact becomes legend print the legend.
The aerial combat was exciting, tense, and realistic8/10
(Synopsis) World War I began in Europe in 1914, but by 1917, the United States had still not entered the war. However, many brave young American men went to France to fly and fight for the Allied powers. They joined the Lafayette Escadrille fighter squadron. The Germans had better planes, weapons, and pilots. The average life expectancy for a fighter-pilot was three to six weeks. Why did these Americans volunteer to fight in France with certain death when their own country was not at war? This was a time when men were idealistic, but naive to embark on a great adventure. Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) was forced to leave his home in Arizona after the family ranch was foreclosed by the bank. Blaine sees a newsreel of fighter-pilots in France and decides that he has nothing to lose. Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine) can't do anything right and is shamed into joining by his rich father. African-American boxer Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis) had been living in France, a racially tolerant country, for many years, wanted to give something back to his new country. These Americans were under the command of French Captain Georges Thenault (Jean Reno) and American Squadron Leader Reed Cassidy (Martin Henderson). They were the world's first combat pilots.

(My Comment) The film was inspired by a true story. What that means is that the writers could write anything they wanted to about the pilots' personal lives. There were actually 38 American volunteers with an average age of 26 that joined the Lafayette Escadrille. Thirty were college educated and eleven were sons of millionaires. These men had a sense of adventure and romance of war, and they believed in "dying with honor." The movie uses a composite of these qualities of the actual pilots, and yes, there really was a black pilot in the squadron. The movie does not shy away from the real aspects of war or the sordid aspects of life on the ground. After every mission there are some pilots who do not return, and we get to see their replacements, and how the pilots deal with the loss of their friends. The aerial combat was exciting, tense, and realistic with the attack on the zeppelin being the best scene of the movie. There is a love story that slows the pace of the movie, and it was a little too long. You will love the scenes with Whiskey, their mascot lion. I think the writers could have used the real pilots' stories and names, and it would have been a better movie by giving credit to those young men. If you like war pictures this is a movie to see. (MGM Pictures, Run time 2:19, Rated PG-13)(8/10)
Just attended the Premier10/10
I just attended the premier of Flyboys at the Oshkosh Airshow. Enjoyed it thoroughly. The flight scene special effects were difficult to impossible to distinguish from the actual flying. Director Tony Bill discussed the background and making of the film to an audience composed largely of aviators including some of the best such as Bob Hoover, Sean Tucker and others. A difficult audience to impress and impressed they were.

The film does not shy away from the ugly aspects of combat nor does it ignore the seamier aspects of the non-flying life although that is nowhere near becoming graphic. The history has been treated accurately - and yes there was really a black pilot as portrayed in the film. I have read a number of histories and autobiographical accounts of the American volunteers - they were idealistic and naive. Thats just the age they lived in - don't judge the characterizations by todays standards.

Anyway, a wonderful film.
A bunch of Ariel Tactics pushed by a romantic storyline.7/10
I really enjoyed the movie. You didn't have to think much about it, it was what it was. Apparently there are some close ties to the true story but it never seemed an issue of trying to portray something too realistic. I am not a huge Franco fan, in fact his poutiness wears on you in most films but he seems to do a really good job of mixing it up, meaning he smiles in this one. I saw a pre-release screening and everyone that I spoke to agreed that it was a good movie. The special effects were really good, the airplanes seemed very realistic for the most part. The close ups seemed a little fake but the tactics seemed really good. I found a bit of cheesiness in the dialog at times but managed to not pay too much attention too it. It wasn't deep but kept you interested the whole time. Don't get me wrong, it was no Saving Private Ryan but it had enough action and drama to keep you interested. They even threw a bit of humor in to keep you loose in your seat. I would recommend it to anyone, just don't expect to walk away a changed person for having seen it. It was a fun movie with some good historical point.