What we found was a surprisingly good movie. The story of an ensemble of American pilots who volunteered to fly as fighter pilots for France in the Great War before America declared war on Germany is told in an old-fashioned, appealing way. The flying sequences are brilliantly filmed and surprisingly free of Hollywood over-hype effects, though for the truly detail-oriented there are some things to quibble with. (The biggest thing being that machine gun bullets don't smoke, thus providing easily visible trails. And I gather that the pilots in the movie are shown pushing their Newports into dives that would likely have caused one of the original planes to shed a wing. Still, nothing that will jar you while watching the movie.)
While the movie doesn't turn war into a sport or a walk in the park by any stretch (two of the pilots are even downed in the trenches at one point) this is not a cynical movie in which all soldiers are victims, scoundrels or both. Nor is it a polemic against the evils of corporate interests and American interventionalism. And it is mainly for these faults, so far as I can tell, that film reviewers seem to have universally hated the movie. The NY times reviewer snarks:
Despite its empty head and arduous length, ''Flyboys'' is ever so nice, in the manner of a Norman Rockwell illustration. The director, Tony Bill, may not be a philosopher but he is a gentleman, moving things along with a tidy, well-mannered hand. In another context, such politesse might feel tonic. Given the state of things, it's nearly toxic.Translation: "We might have tolerated this tripe about outdated concepts like honor, bravery and cooperating with France if it weren't for the fact that at this time in history any film about war must be a polemic against the Bush administration."
French actress Jennifer Decker, who apparently spoke essentially no English when she started on the production, appears in a low-key supporting role a French farm girl that the main character falls in love with, and courts chastely through the mid part of the movie. However, far from seeming like something grafted on to try to win a little female audience, the plot line has a refreshing honesty and realism about it.
For those without political objections of the genre per se and who enjoy quality old fashioned movie making, Flyboys is a treat.