This is the WW1 flying film I've always wanted to see. It's what Flyboys wanted to be. This film is about a week in the life of a British squadron on the western front. They fight, they fly, they party, they suffer. They are not cartoon heroes, but real characters. Each one seems to be based on a different pilot and method of coping. They have the fresh recruit, the shellshocked survivor, the tortured commander, the courteous older veteranā?¦ Malcolm McDowell's war hero commander is probably the most complicated character. He has wild mood fluctuations, needs booze to get in the cockpit, and occasionally expresses a childish enthusiasm that seems utterly at odds with his normal persona. The only thing is that given McDowell's other roles, I kept expecting his inner psycho to come out. It's a wonderful performance, it's just a matter of expectations.
At any rate, I've been looking for a good WW1 flying film and until now found them all surprisingly lacking. The Blue Max was grim and rather unlikeable, Flyboys cliche-ridden and cheesy, Biggles a farce, Red Baron overly-enthralled with its hero, and most of the others are much older and thus more limited in what they can present. This is rather the best of the lot.