During World War I prior to America joining in the fray, some brave and adventurous young American men traveled to France to enlist with the French so they could be fighter pilots.
It's not that they were eager to fight, but the excitement of being biplane pilots and soaring in the air was the draw. When they actually meet their Commander, played by Jean Reno, and are told they have a chance of being in a plane that will catch fire, or crash, that the reality of war hits home.
Based on true stories, the idea was to get the new pilots up in the air to fight Germans as quickly as possible. Their planes appear to be made of cardboard and glue, and besides worrying about being shot down, they must worry about guns jamming, gears sticking and perhaps the wings falling off the planes.
The men left home for various reasons, one to escape his demanding father, one to continue his family 's military background, one, a black man, to even the field by having the opportunity to be a pilot. The star played by James Franco leaves behind trouble in his home state of Texas.
A sweet romance between Franco and a French country girl, and the air of respect that more seasoned pilots were shown, give the film a real old fashioned feel.
Some of the dialogue doesn't ring true and there are many cookie cutter characters, but the exciting aerial fights make this an adventure better than most, and worthy of the admission price. The planes just missing one another over the lush green landscape, the near misses, rat-a-tat of gunfire piercing the veneer and the great flying skill add up to a pretty good film.