Flyboys Soar

October 15, 2006 11:37 pm

If a great movie is defined by, "leaving the audience wanting more" ... Flyboys is the must see movie of the year!”


Flyboys Images © MGM

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.


Flyboys Images © MGM

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.

Flyboys Images © MGM

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.

Flyboys Images © MGM

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).

Flyboys Images © MGM

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 Images © MGM

Flyboys running time: 139 minutes

Distributor: MGM

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:

  • Scenes from the Flyboys - Zeppelin Dogfight


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Guest Columnist Dee-Marie

October 16, 2006

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Article Comments

GSGALAXY ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 16 October 2006

Seems to be an actionfilled and visually interesting movie, especially for aviaton fans. However - i'm not quite sure, that all shown manouvers are really flyable with the old WW1 biplanes, since their frame was mostly not metal, more made out of wood and pieces of material, plus their engine powers only allowed certain rougher manouvers. But since it's for the pleasure and the action in a movie, i believe it has to be done that way. Anyway, for sure an entertaining movie, if your interested in the theme.

deemarie ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 17 October 2006

Hi CSGALAXY, Thank you for your interest in the movie and the article. For additional reading on the creation of the movie and the aircraft involved, I would suggest clicking on the "Creating WWI Air Space" link at the end of the article. I am not a huge fan of flying, nor am I an expert on vintage aircraft. The thought of going to another war movie is akin to how my dogs must feel when I take them to the Vet. Even with all my negative baggage, I found the movie extremely entertaining. Each time the planes took to the air, my heart began to pound. Was some of the flying Hollywood enhanced? I am sure! However, the writers and director did their research, and appeared to do their best to keep the aerial battles within the realm of realism. I particularly found the techniques used to shoot the flying sequences, combing real action with a minimal use of CGI, fascinating. The current trend in movie making is to do all dangerous feats in the studio, with the Techies creating the real life action through the magic of CGI. I found it refreshing that the majority of the flying scenes were created using actual replications of vintage planes, while performing real life dogfights. Thank you again for your comment and I hope you get a chance to view the movie on the big screen. Dee-Marie

Paula Sanders ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 17 October 2006

Great Review! I appreciate the detail that you go into.

nickcharles ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 17 October 2006

I have to admit that when I first saw the poster for this movie, I thought: "Nah...nothing I really want to see". But after this outstanding review, I gotta check it out :D Thanks Dee!

Osper ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 17 October 2006

I like the review that you've done. The detail was very good. As to the planes in the "War to end all wars" one might be very surprised as to their construction. Anthony Fokker used welded steel in his fuselage and you might remember the British used plywood in their Mosquito in WW2. The speeds flown made for some very tight turns and snappy acrobatics when coupled with rotary engines. It will be very interesting to see.

Depau ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 23 October 2006

I liked the movie. I've always been a WWI Aviation buff. It seemed realistic. Only thought I had was saw alot of the Forker DR1s. I think in reality there would have been much more of a mix of Albatros II, IIIs etc...Some good mockups of the large WWI bombers were interesting.