Flyboys may be inspired by true events, but director Tony Bill’s evocation of an air squadron’s exploits during WWI is a sham no amount of droopy-dog posturing by James Franco can alleviate. Franco, whose physical beauty is matched by his concentrated acting talent, may be our generation’s Montgomery Clift, and in this insipid war epic he stars as Blaine Rawlings, a country boy who makes his way to France in order to join the Lafayette Escardrille, a division of the French Air Service composed largely of American men. Every crisis the guy’s comrades must cope with throughout the film passes by the screen as if by conveyor belt—a troublesome little albatross acknowledged in one scene, forgotten for two reels, then readily tossed off courtesy of some speciously deployed contrivance. Take Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine), who refuses to room with Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis) because it would be like sleeping with one of his servants, but after Eugene saves his portly comrade in battle, Eugene shares a 100-year-old bottle of liquor with the black man. For others, their varied dilemmas will be as readily and tritely salved as Briggs’s racism, except, that is, for Franco’s Blaine, who copes with nothing at all: After falling in love with a local woman, Lucienne (Jennifer Decker), he believes to be a prostitute, he discovers she was only visiting the bordello the day its whores nursed Blaine and his buddy back to help after falling from the sky. Whew! Just as dodgy is the layout of the wow-zap-bang air sequences, which are spread out so neatly across the film—always after the one-two-punch of Blaine and Lucienne caught up in the ecstasy of their parlez-vous française romance and Jean Reno’s boys fronting cock-of-the-block bluster—that the whole thing conveys the feeling it was designed using a mathematical algorithm. Flyboys, which is scored within an inch of the fallacious shitstorm of Jan Saverák’s Dark Blue World, builds to a video-game climax equipped with not one but two final-boss battles during which Blaine and the lionized Reed Cassidy (Martin Henderson) take on The Black Falcon and a Fucking Huge Zeppelin. The Americans win but, alas, audience don’t.
- Tony Bill
- Phil Sears, Blake T. Evans, David S. Ward
- James Franco, Martin Henderson, Jean Reno, David Ellison, Tyler Labine, Philip Winchester, Abdul Salis, Lex Schrapnel, Michael Jibson, Jennifer Decker
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