Flyboys is a rare World War I film, an event that Hollywood apparently has forgotten. By focusing on the air squadrons, it has the advantage of offering a unique viewpoint. In the end, it somehow ends up a clichéd, dragged out mess that is recommendable solely for its special effects.
Riddled with historical inaccuracies, Flyboys’ claim that it was inspired by (not based on) a true story is an early sign of trouble. For those who won’t catch the mistakes, you’ll be involved in certain pieces of the film, namely those that take place in the air. When it’s on the ground, it’s been done before.
While the script does what it can to separate the young recruits, they blend together into a stack of typical war movie characters. Jean Reno is wasted in a fine performance as Captain Thenault, given little screen time to develop any sense as to his purpose. He’s not involved in anything other than directing his pilots, who are apparently the only ones fighting in the air for France.
From a story standpoint, Flyboys is all over the place. The tone changes constantly, with excessive humor defeating the impact of serious story elements. Even during involving air battles, there’s some form of comedy and it’s as awful as incorrect script decisions can be.
On the ground, a brutally cheap love story follows Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) as he chases a French woman who doesn’t speak English. This leads to agonizing scenes of Rawlings trying to communicate with her, making the entire “love” portion of this sub-plot baffling. True or not, this entire storyline could have been cut to bring the film down from its overly long two-hour plus running time.
Where Flyboys makes a mark is with its stunning aerial battles. While the special effects can be off in spots, these intense conflicts are masterfully choreographed. They generally have some tie-in to the main story creating a needed connection. Director Tony Bill manages to separate each fight to make it unique, which is odd given the general roughness around the actual human players.
If you’re going into the film expecting nothing but action, you’ll be pleasantly surprised once the initial storyline set-up is complete. It’s the movie many people likely wanted from Pearl Harbor given Flyboys‘ heavier slant towards action. Oddly, just like Michael Bay’s war epic, the unneeded story elements get in the way with their throwaway characters and love angle.
Flyboys looks stunning on a Blu-ray. Colors are bolder and richer than the DVD release. The overall look is sharper and consistent. While it may not boast the finest details ever seen on the format, this is a glossy, clear presentation that showcases the visuals in grand form.
Likewise, the DTS-HD master track is phenomenal. Planes fly through the sound field constantly, loading the rear speakers with activity. Each bullet fired seems to be accurately tracked in every speaker… and there are a lot of bullets. Explosions are beefy in the LFE channel delivering a nice rumble.
The Blu-ray thankfully brings over all features from the two disc DVD release instead of what amounted to nothing on the single disc release. A commentary from Dean Devlin and director Tony Bill is rarely dry. A Blu-ray exclusive pop-up trivia track can be viewed along with it to provide even more technical information.
Six featurettes total up to over an hour in length. There are features on the actual events portrayed in the film and loads of behind the scenes stuff, and all of it is well produced. Some of the info is repeated in the commentary. Six deleted scenes and a stack of trailers round off a short list but well done selection of extras.