Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Flyboys: An Old Fashioned War Movie

MrsDarwin and I took a rare night out last Friday to go see the new World War I flying movie Flyboys, despite it being subject to some pretty vicious reviews. I'm a sucker for old airplanes, and the preview somehow just caught our fancy.

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Translation: "We might have tolerated this tripe about outdated concepts like honor, bravery and cooperating with France if it weren't for the fact that at this time in history any film about war must be a polemic against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.

5 comments:

Love2Learn Mom said...

Thanks for the review. Looks like one we'll have to check out.

Big Tex said...

Mrs. Tex & I will be getting a rare date night soon. I think I will try to convince her to see this movie. :-)

Darwin, if you and the family are ever out this way, you might appreciate the Museum of Flight. Number one, there are lots of airplanes. Number two, there are lots of old airplanes and an exhibit of the old Boeing factory from when planes were made of mostly wood and cotton. It's pretty cool.

Christopher said...

Thanks for the review -- the previews caught my eye as well.

Q: Although from a different war, did you like Memphis Belle?

Darwin said...

I did like it pretty well, as I recall, though I have it mixed up in my mind with 12 O'Clock High (which was made right after the war and was generally a superior movie).

Anonymous said...

I have seen that movie four hours ago and and have to say - nice movie, BUT on the other side, there are many absolute nonsenses and absurdities! Did you now, for example, that wreck of the airplane made of wood and canvas can protect you against german machine gun fire? That airplane can land on the battlefield dissected by thousands bomb craters? That WW1 airplanes could fly in the absolute dark at night? Oh my, WHO COULD WRITE THIS??? *Consternated Spectator*