Review Corner: Flyboys

14 Sep


Directed by Tony Bill.

Written by David S. Ward.

Produced by Dean Devlin and Marc Frydman.

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Inc.

Release Date September 22, 2006.

Running time: 139 minutes.

Review by Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

Flyboys, a movie that was inspired by the Lafayette Escadrille which comprised solely of American volunteers serving under the French Air Force (FAF) during World War I (WWI). Viewers should keep in mind that there have not been a movie based on WWI aviation since the 20’s and 30’s; Wings, Hell’s Angels, and Dawn Patrol which became classic “air films”. In Flyboys almost everything was based on events that occurred during WWI.

Themain theme of Flyboys was to demonstrate the trials and tribulations that aviators face at the dawn of combat aviation in the early 20th century. It also illustrates the intense and detailed aerial dogfights which emphasizes on the importance of battle tactics and wartime strategies. Flyboys’ elaborates on the psychology, emotions, and physical strain endured by members of the Lafayette Escadrille and the people of France during WWI.

            This movie follows a new batch of American volunteers who joined the Lafayette Escadrille in 1916 prior to the United States of America entry into WWI. The film characters were based loosely on the American volunteers fighting for the FAF but the social background of the volunteers was genuine. For example, the role of Eugene Skinner played by Abdul Salis actually depicted Eugene Bullard, who was the first African-American WWI aviator. Other characters were a combination of different individuals within the Lafayette Escadrille which came from different parts of American society and geography.

            However, Flyboys’ did an excellent job of focusing on the survivability of pilot training to the actual combat missions faced by aviators in WWI. The reference of aircraft like the Newport, Bristol, Fokker and others were accurately portrayed in this movie. Hollywood for one had it right in depicting the notion of chivalry that existed between adversaries during WWI. The air battle was portrayed in great detail by referring to historical sources like personal journals, aircraft designs, mission logs, and archival records in order to emphasize on the dilemmas confronted by WWI aviators. For example; the machine gun malfunctions during combat, early implementation of bomber escorts, the use of personal pistol to end one’s life rather than being burn alive, the use of rear mirror to detect enemy approaches from a pilot’s blind spot, the difficulty of shooting down a Zeppelin, the important of offense-defense tactics during a dogfight, and the professionalism of German (Huns) aviators in executing the “Dicta Boelcke” doctrine to the note in order to ensure one’s success during an aerial combat.

            The strength of Flyboys was the emphasis on realism which comes close to Sagittarius Rising by Cecil Lewis. This movie was not a Pearl Harbor disaster but a triumph of using history as an entertaining educational tool the general public and inspiring individual to further research on WWI aviation. Flyboys was an excellent unbiased Hollywood movie that solely concentrated on the never-ending struggle between man and machine in the time of war. I firmly recommend Flyboys to historians, students, aviation enthusiasts, and to anyone who love a good war epic.


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