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James Franco in Flyboys

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary by Director Tony Bill & Producer Dean Devlin; Deleted Scenes; Featurette: The Flyboys Ride With Air Force Thunderbirds & The Navy Blue Angels; Featurette: Taking Flight – The Making Of Aerial Battle Sequences.

TONY Bill’s epic drama Flyboys attempts to pay tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the young men who took part in the aerial dogfights of World War One but is shot down thanks to a banal script and pedestrian pacing.

Set in 1918, the film focuses on the men of the Lafayette Escadrille, the first American fighter-pilot squadron to see action during World War One.

They include James Franco’s Blaine Rawlings, a former rancher inspired by newsreel footage of the squadron’s heroics, Reed Cassidy (Martin Henderson), the cynical squadron leader, Eddie Beagle (David Ellison), a cocky high-flyer who can’t shoot straight, and Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis), a black boxer who wants to help defend France in gratitude for the tolerance they have displayed for the colour of his skin.

Each character is supposed to represent a composite of several real-life heroes but while many of their aerial exploits are true (and plucked straight from their letters home), their interaction on the ground owes more to Hollywood stereotype and films like Top Gun.

The screenplay, especially, is so predictable that viewers will be able to guess the story arc of just about every pilot, while the arduous running time means that they’ll also be counting down to each inevitability.

A token love story between Franco’s Blaine and Jennifer Decker’s French-speaking farmgirl, Lucienne, is also awkwardly handled and brings back uncomfortable memories of Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor.

Flying enthusiasts may derive some satisfaction once the film takes to the air given the well-choreographed nature of the combat sequences – but even then proceedings are hindered by an overbearing soundtrack that tends to signpost what’s about to happen.

The overall impression is one of bitter disappointment given the admirable intent behind the movie. Flyboys never really takes off as a movie and regrettably wastes the opportunity to cover its real-life heroes in the glory their stories deserve.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 18mins