Flyboys (2006)

(In theaters, September 2006) Alas, another good concept that flounders on the actual execution. There is nothing wrong about a WW1 movie about the Lafayette Escadrille squad. (Well, nothing except side-step the real story of most WW1 pilots, because there wasn’t anything ordinary about Lafayette Escadrille.) But when it’s leadened with some of the worst structure and dialogue this side of the Star Wars prequels, it’s really hard to appreciate the whole. The word “excruciating” was invented to describe the feeling the audience gets while watching James Franco romance a French Girl (who’s not, as the movie takes particular pain to explain, a prostitute) –and it’s even worse if you do understand French. At least the historical recreations are interesting, and some of the dogfights are very cool despite the video-game aspect of the zeppelin scene. Structurally, the script is a trite collage of old-fashioned clichés, but some individual moments stand out… though it will take a masochist to watch the film over and over again. (Especially given how it lasts no less than two hours and twenty interminable minutes.) Worse, at least to modern audiences, is the lack of self-awareness about war and its toll on the men fighting it: the worse we get for the pampered flyboys of Lafayette is a man losing his nerve long enough to sustain dramatic tension. (And even that doesn’t work, as viewers can count down to his re-appearance in the story.) In the end, I suppose that Flyboys‘ greatest success and biggest failure can be described as having the same effect: It will make everyone realize their unfulfilled need for a really good WW1 dogfighting epic. Comparisons with Pearl Harbor, though insulting, are not unfair.

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