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Stars: James Franco, Jean Reno, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker, Philip Winchester, Michael Jibson, Tyler Labine, David Ellison, Tim Pigott-Smith

Director: Tony Bill

Simplified, but spectacular and stirring, this is the first look for 50 years at Lafayette Escadrille, the first American fighter pilot squadron in World War One, when, before the US had officially joined the conflict, a few young would-be aviators crossed to France to fight against the Germans - only to be told that the average lifespan of a pilot on the front was a matter of weeks.

Like most films of its kind, Flyboys comes alive in the skies, with some vivid, bullet-spitting aerial action, in single or multiple combat, bombing raids, or, in an explosive climax, a mission to destroy a Zeppelin guarded by crack enemy fighters.

Individual characters are rather well drawn, with Franco bringing his James Dean-like brooding intensity to Texan Blaine Rawlings, both in mid-air heroics and in a quite well-handled romance with a French farm girl (Decker). You'll surely raise a cheer at his unexpected dispatch of one German ace, in this essentially old-fashioned but incredibly well-photographed adventure yarn.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Verve Pictures. Technicolor.
138 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 31 May 2007