Seen through the eyes of a rebellious Texas rancher Blaine Rawlings (James Franco
), the story follows a group of young Americans, who came to France to help defend the country against a German invasion during WWI. Joining a division of the French Air Service called Lafayette Escadrille, they were to head to the skies in rickety planes to fend off the enemy. Based on a true story, and known as a group whose military lifespan is three to six weeks, these men risked their lives to do what's right and for an opportunity to fly.
This film delves into the lives of the men in the division, including a romance story between Rawlings and a French woman. Topics of racism, family pride, heroism and cowardice are all touched upon, but not enough to really care about the developments on the screen. This film, for no other reason, was made to show off the unbelievable aerial dogfights between the good Americans, and the evil Germans. Article continues below
The beautifully choreographed aerial stunts are worth the price of admission alone. But the story comes to a screeching halt, when the men return to base. The biggest problem with the film is how it felt too much like "Hogan's Heroes" and not enough like "Full Metal Jacket." The French Captain Thenault (Jean Reno
) was nothing more than a comedic break from the drama in the air. His threats are always followed by congratulatory speeches and his carefree attitude was extremely off-putting. In one scene where Rawlings took a plane to save his love interest, he was immediately arrested upon his return. He was handcuffed, and given a speech about the terrible situation he put himself into, and how brave he was for doing so. As a result the handcuffs came off and were replaced with a medal.
I would have to say the most convenient part in the film was the role of Reed Cassidy (Martin Henderson
), the experienced fighter with an impressive kill count. Having survived every battle and has lost all his friends in the process, this seasoned vet disperses advice at a moment's notice. He sees all and knows all, even without actually being there. There are several scenes that prove this, as he has the answer to why the enemy did not pull the trigger with Rawlings in his sights, or what really happened to Eddie Beagle (David Ellison
) back home. He takes the liberty to look up information, and is always Johnny on the spot.
The diverse characters were a story of their own. There's William Jensen (Philip Winchester
), who comes from a family of heroes, and feels it's his destiny to return home as one. A French black man (Abdul Salis
), who is fighting for the country that gave him an opportunity to be a boxer. Eddie Beagle, a scared kid, who stirs up suspicion of his true motives. And Blaine Rawlings, who had to give up his family ranch, with dreams of owning his own one day.
With so many ways of striking a cord with the audience, the director Tony Bill
, made a huge mistake by concentrating more on the characters that came out unscathed, rather on the ones that took the eternal plunge. That alone, leaves you content that the characters you grew to care for have survived, but also leaves you emotionless when other brave men lose their lives.
This film is packed with predictable, clichéd scenes, and misses the target on creating a story that an audience could care about. But with breathtaking heart-pounding action, which dominates this film, you are left completely satisfied with this unique and mesmerizing picture.