Tuesday, May 29, 2007

FLYBOYS - less Flash, more Heart

FLYBOYS is a war movie so old-fashioned, earnest and two-dimensional it brought a nostalgic tear to my eye. It's a no-nonsense, patriotic, sentimental true story about Americans who flew fighter planes for the French before the US joined World War One. The American heroes are clean-cut handsome men who wear nice uniforms. That is, unless they're the quirky, weedy soldiers who are bound to get shot down by the evil Hun and provide the movie's pathos.

On the down-side, the handsome young things are led by James Franco, who once again does that handsome brooding thing that he sub's for acting. The inevitable romance between Franco and a young French peasant-girl is pure sugar and lengthens the movie's run-time from a manageable 90 minutes to well over two hours. There's a hamfisted attempt to explore the racial politics of the time. Plus, the dialogue is pretty dire. (Suprising given that one of the writers penned SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.)

But despite these manifest flaws, FLYBOYS is not a complete waste of time. First and foremost, after revisionist movies like FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS it's quite nice to remember that sometimes there are simply young men who display courage fighting for what they believe in with no hidden agenda. But second, let's not under-estimate how much fun it is to see handsome men in nice uniforms have brilliantly rendered dog fights. Because, if there's only one thing that director Tony Bill gets right, he REALLY gets the battle sequences right. And by "right", I don't mean historically right - I'm sure you could pick apart the exact types of planes used - but exhilerating. Pure and simple. DP Henry Braham and the CGI boys should be proud.

So, for those of you who enjoy watching pilots shoot at each other in rickety planes - who love lovers kissing at sunset and tales of derring-do - this is your film. For all its flaws, by not trying to be too clever, it retains a certain charm.

FLYBOYS was released in the US, Philippines, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Slovenia, Russia, Brazil, Hungary, Thailand, Iceland, Hong Kong, Romania and Singapore in 2005. It opened in Mexico, Australia, Poland, Germany and Belgium earlier this year. It opens in the UK on June 1st and in Italy and Spain on June 29th. FLYBOYS is available on Region 1 DVD.

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