With a plot as rickety as its vintage biplanes and dialogue as fragrant as Swiss gruyère, it’s a wonder Tony Bill’s homage to the first American fighter-pilot squadron to see action in WWI got off the ground. But for all its Boy’s Own clichés and hammy acting, the airborne action whips up enough G-force to make this old-school war yarn an enjoyable throwback to the likes of Wings and Hell’s Angels. State-of-the-art CGI lends a thrilling zip to aerial sequences, one attack on a Zeppelin putting you right in the cockpit with James Franco’s reckless novice and Martin Henderson’s battle-hardened cynic. Yes, the plot splutters on terra firma, Franco’s insipid romance with virginal mademoiselle Jennifer Decker pushing the running time past the two-hour mark. Jean Reno, however, exudes benevolence as the Lafayette Escadrille’s kindly commander, while Bill’s love for the material shines through every sepia-tinted frame.
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