Prior to the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, the U.S. was mainly a spectator during what would eventually be called World War I.

At the time, the conflict that was known as “The Great War and by optimists as “The War to End all Wars” was laying waste to a generation of young men and leaving many of Europe’s nations in ruins.

With new inventions such as submarines, machine guns, and poison gas being deployed in the battlefield, hundreds of thousands were killed in the early stages of the war. One of the new inventions to see use during the war were airplanes, which had only recently been invented, but showed great potential and were quickly used by both sides for scouting and combat missions.

Looking for adventure and hoping to make a name for themselves, a handful of American men volunteered to fight in the war and some joined the Lafayette Escadrille, so they could join the fight by flying for the French.

In the new film Flyboys, James Franco stars as Blaine Rawlings, a young man fleeing his family ranch in TX after an altercation with a financier who has foreclosed on his family home. Upon arriving in France, Blaine meets other Americans including Eugene (Abdul Salis), who has left a promising career as a boxer to give something back to his adoptive nation of France since due to a more tolerant society, the color of his skin has not held him back as much as it has in


Under the command of Captain Thenault (Jean Reno) the squadron is trained and eventually sent into combat against the German forces where they learn the true nature and horrors of war firsthand as they have to deal with the very high mortality rate that faces pilots and the knowledge that each time they fly into battle, may very well be their last moments.

Blaine eventually meets a local French lady named Lucienne (Jennifer Decker), a shy French lady who cares for three young children after their parents were killed when their home was hit. The fact that the dead father was also her brother is added burden for Lucienne as she worries about losing those she cares for as the war wages on.

Despite her concerns, Lucienne becomes close to Blaine even though the war is a constant threat and keeps creating distances between them, especially when the German forces advance upon the village in which she lives.

Since this is a film about aviators, there are several scenes in the film of the various missions Blaine and his comrades undertook that are rendered with a mix of CGI and vintage aircraft from the era.

In the air, the action is engrossing and entertaining, but on the ground, much of the film drags as it has every cliché and war movie staple in the book thrown in as well as characters that are not well defined, and lack anything to make the audience really connect with them.

This is a real shame as there are some good points to the film, but at just over two hours running length, there is not enough chemistry or development with the characters to truly make the audience care about them or their fates.

The aerial scenes are well done, but in many ways remind me of Howard Hughes classic “Hell’s Angels” and vintage classics “Dawn Patrol” and“The Blue Max”

As it stands, the best thing going for the film are the flight sequences but the slow pacing, numerous clichés and bland characters keeps Flyboys grounded.

2 stars out of 5.