FLYBOYS is a good old-fashioned historical drama concerning the Lafayette Escadrille, a French regiment of American volunteer airmen serving the allied cause in WWI before the U.S. became officially involved.
James Franco plays Blaine, a Texas rancher; he bunks with Eugene (Abdul Salis), an African American boxer whose been living in Paris as an ex-patriate to get away from American racism.
Other fighters include a pampered New York scion (Tyler Labine) and a lanky, lazy Kansan (David Ellison). They all train under the patient hand of the French commander, succinctly embodied by the wondrous Jean Reno (THE PROFESSIONAL). Martin Henderson (TORQUE) is good and brusque as a jaded flier with a bunch of kills under his belt and an obsession with an ace German fighter; he wont let the new kids drink in the officer's club until they've shot down their first planes.
It all unfolds in a no-nonsense linear narrative that reminds one of early films like THE DAWN PATROL (1930) and WINGS (1927); and there's a comfortingly familiar orchestral score that's heavy with the cloud-invoking wooden flute.
But the CGI-enhanced aerial dogfight scenes are the crux of the biscuit here, and history fans should be frothing at the mouth with all the zeppelins, dogfights and enemy chivalry.
There's plenty of well-researched period detail and even some ooh-la la romance in the form of a good girl gone semi-bad from a nearby brothel (the very charming Jennifer Decker).