Look out, Snoopy! The Red Baron’s on your tail!

Theatrical Release Date: 09/22/2006
Director: Tony Bill
Cast: James Franco, Martin Henderson, Jean Reno, Abdul Salis

I missed catching this in theaters and only just caught it on DVD.

“Flyboys” tells the story of American pilots who came to France to fight in WWI before the United States officially entered the fray. I had been interested in seeing this not only because I like war films but also because it’s refreshing to see a war film that isn’t set between 1939 and 1945.

Based on true events, the filmmakers did a nice job of casting without being able to draw any big stars, as most of the budget went to special effects and vehicles.

James Franco plays the rebel without a cause cowboy who is looking for a purpose in life. Martin Henderson is the grizzled veteran who helps mold the newbies into something and the hardest working French actor around, Jean Reno, is their captain.

They and the rest of the supporting cast created a nice ensemble feel and while there were a few times when you had trouble making out who was in the plane (i.e. who just died), the nice thing about “Flyboys” is that they spent enough time on character development to give the audience a reason to care when they get shot down.

Sure, there is a lot of Hollywood in this film; all of the usual story arcs are present and accounted for. Still, all of it was done well and aside from the romantic subplot, which I think could have scrapped in order to trim the running time (140 min), I was sucked into this world of fledgling aerial combat.

While I have read reports that there were many mistakes made in regards to plane type (and zeppelins aren’t that hard to shoot down except in video games), this film is also reported to be the first film to motion capture planes.

This paid off big time, as the dog fighting looked fantastic. You definitely want to see this on a nice, big Plasma TV or LCD so you can best experience the aerial maneuvers and scenery.

Though some of the story elements were hokey, the action makes up for that and provides for an entertaining journey through a chapter of war that isn’t often portrayed on film (WWII gets all the attention).

If you’re a war film buff, you’ll definitely find something to like here. I’m giving “Flyboys” a 3 out of 5. Now if I can only get Franco to stop tearing up in every scene …