Flyboys Movie Review

Airplanes parked on runways aren't very exciting. Sure, the motionless crafts contain the components necessary for flight, but they only achieve their fullest potential when they leave the ground and soar through the skies.

The same can be said for Flyboys. When its protagonists are grounded, Tony Bill's recounting of the birth of World War I fighter pilots resembles every other ham-fisted tale of historic heroism that has come down the cinematic pipe. But the movie triumphs when these men climb into their cockpits and finally fly.

Bland James Franco leads the baby-faced pack of soldiers who, in 1914, felt they had something to prove to their girlfriend/father/squad leader/general. The brave adventurers enlist in France's fledgling Lafayette Escadrille, a small group of pilots trained by General Thenault (Jean Reno, Hollywood's go-to French actor), who pioneered an aerial attack in the Great War against Germany. What these boys don't learn before signing on the dotted line is that the Lafayette Escadrille embarks on what are basically suicide missions. Life expectancy of a pilot in the program is three to six weeks.

That doesn't stop former ranch hand Blaine Rawlings (Franco) from pouring his heart into the war effort. Flyboys takes a perversely upbeat approach to combat. The new recruits march past maimed soldiers, yet forget the horrors of war once they spot the royal estate that serves as their barracks. The surviving members of Lafayette Escadrille regroup each evening to carouse in the military base's makeshift watering hole - since they're all on borrowed time, we're told they can't waste precious minutes honoring the dead. Yet in a scene that rings particularly false, Franco uses his airplane (which we've been lectured is a killing machine) to romance a local French girl (Jennifer Decker) and entertain her brother's children. Try to ignore the fact that the kids' father was decimated in a battle-related explosion not too long ago. We're supposed to be having fun here, people.

These lighter moments and the softened tone conflict with the film's impressive but lethal combat scenes. The men of Lafayette Escadrille risk life and limb on scarred battlefields recreated using the finest digital effects available. As mentioned, Flyboys drastically improves once in the air. Bill and his effects team rocket model planes through dizzying aeronautic sequences, though his action relies too heavily on blue-screen treatments and the airborne clashes grow repetitive over the film's long running time (2 hours and 20 minutes... about 40 minutes too long).

The edgy flight shots and stimulating biplane battles make Flyboys a better movie. They just don't make it a good one.

It's not a balloon, it's a zeppelin! An airship!

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : , Duncan Reid, James Clayton

Starring : , , David Ellison, , Jennifer Decker


Flyboys Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2006


More James Franco

National Theater Live To Bring 'Of Mice & Men', Starring James Franco, To US Cinemas

Missed out on James Franco starring as George in the recent Broadway adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1937 tale Of Mice and Men? Don't despair as...

James Franco Uses Venice Film Festival To Shoot Scenes For New Movie Sporting A Shaven, Tattooed Head

James Franco caused a few people to do a double take on Friday when he showed off his new look at the Venice Film Festival....

Venice: Kudos to Franco, but 'The Sound and the Fury' Doesn't Work

Perhaps only James Franco would go from a slapstick comedy about trying to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un to an adaptation of William Faulkner's...

Lindsay Lohan Comments On James Franco Claiming Her Sex-List Is Wrong

Lindsay Lohan was left feeling embarrassed when a list of all the famous people she had slept with, which included 36 high-profile stars, was leaked...


Sony May Remove Kim Jong-Un's "Face Melting" Scene From 'The Interview'

Sony is considering removing a scene in which Kim Jong-Un's face melts off in the comedy The Interview, to appease North Korea. Producers of the...

James Franco and Seth Rogen's New Comedy 'The Interview' Pushed Back to December

Originally scheduled to release in October, The Interview is co-directed by Evan Goldberg (who also directed This is the End) and Seth Rogen, and is...

James Franco Is All Over Our Screens This Year - Here's What To Look Out For

James Franco looks to be a busy man at the moment - and we're not just talking about his Instagram selfie habit. Ever the hard...

James Franco Brands Gawker Story About Him Living With Actor Scott Haze A "Homophobic Scoop"

James Franco is known to be very active on social media, mainly known for positing selfies, but on this occasion he used it as a...