If a great movie is defined by, "leaving the audience wanting more" ... Flyboys is the must see movie of the year!”
I admit I was a bit skeptical of the pre-movie hype, another “Independent” film boasting the true grit realities of war, a movie steeped in fact, based on historical events. The World War I film appeared to have it all: strong plot and interesting subplots, on the edge of your seat action, drama sprinkled with humor, attractive actors who could actually act, breathtaking cinematography, and memorial soundtrack, and a lion (if you just go to view the lion, the price of the movie is well spent).
Yet, an hour into the film, I could hardly wait for it to end. I had an uncontrollable urge to not only research the young American WWI pilots dubbed the Knights of the Air ... but an even stronger desire to find out how many of the aerial dogfights were performed by actual vintage airplanes, and how many scenes were computer generated.
The Flyboys’ plot revolves around a handful of brash idealistic Americans known as the Lafayette Escadrille. These brave young men volunteered their services, and often their lives, to fight alongside the French, as novice pilots in WWI. Reinventing 1917 France was not an easy endeavor, especially on a shoestring budget. It called for innovative and dedicated movie enthusiasts, like director Tony Bill and writers Phil Sears, Blake T. Evans, and David S. Ward, who filmed the movie on the 300,000–acre Stanford Training Area in Britain, with a cast of virtually unknowns.
Instead of shooting with traditional film, the movie was shot entirely in digital cinematography using an untried groundbreaking camera ... the Panavision Genesis 35 mm Digital. The aerial battles were even more incredible with the help of an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and the Eurocopter AS-350, which created realistic flying responses from the Nieuports and Fokker vintage replica planes. Combined with limited, yet skillful use of CGI and blue screens, created lifelike stomach churning highflying, in the middle of the battle, aerobatics.
Of course, the Flyboys would never have gotten off the ground without the outstanding group of fresh faces posing as the WWI pilots. In training for their parts, the actors all took to the air in the vintage aircraft and were filmed flying, bringing the movie’s realism to new heights. The young ensemble cast included new comers Philip Winchester, Abdul Salis, Tyler Labine, David Ellison, and Jennifer Decker.
Also staring heartthrobs James Franco (the ever-brooding upcoming superstar, best known for his recurring role of Peter Parker’s rival Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man series), and Martin Henderson (hunky New Zealander, star of Bollywood’s Bride and Prejudice). Adding to the mix, the brilliant veteran French film actor Jean Reno (the group’s commander), and Shaka the 15-month-old lion (masterfully playing the part of Whiskey, the scene stealing feline).
Without question, the non-humanoid stars of Flyboys were the vintage aircraft. With each trip into battle, the planes took on specific personalities as they struggled to outfight and out fly each other. I too struggled trying to differentiate between computer generated imagery and the real deal. With the exception of the zeppelin encounter, it was impossible to distinguish reality from computer generation. The director delivered on his promise of putting the audience in the pilot’s cockpit. Every aerial scene was an on the edge of your seat experience!
Flyboys running time: 139 minutes
Production Company: Electric Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners
[Flyboy images copyright MGM, and cannot be reproduced without written permission]
For additional information on the making of Flyboys, we invite you to visit the following sites:
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Guest Columnist Dee-Marie
October 16, 2006