Some time ago I came across the 2006 movie Flyboys in a bargain bin. When I was looking for something to watch tonight, it seemed like a great choice since it’s Memorial Day weekend.

I’ve always been interested in World War I, from Doughboys on the ground in the trenches to fragile early airplanes swooping and soaring through foreign skies. Flying aces, battling the enemy close enough to stare at him eye to eye, are such a part of world history that we can think we know about them without really knowing much at all. Historical names like Richthofen and Rickenbacker, Snoopy “flying” his doghouse, goggles firmly in place and scarf waving, even Red Baron Pizza…that era has become a solid part of pop culture. A movie like Flyboys brings a startling jolt of reality to even the most casual observer.

Based on the true story of the Lafayette Escadrille, Flyboys taught me details of the lives of those pilots that had never occurred to me. The flowing white scarves that give such dashing glamour to the already attractive leather jackets? Turns out they were an inadvertent fashion statement. Their practical purpose was to ease chafing of the neck caused by constant head turning to spot the enemy in the air. The goggles that provided necessary protection for the pilots’ eyes in flight were a danger when a crash was unavoidable, as the glass could shatter and become a hazard. So they were trained to take them off when they knew they were going down. The most simple details revealed themselves to be more vital than one would think.

The cast, direction, cinematography, score…everything about this movie was top notch. It brought the past to life in a vivid, thrilling way, yet I never lost the knowledge in the back of my mind that it was not only a historical story, but also real on a more intimate scale. History, humanity, and deeply personal stories woven together in a movie that reminded me at a time when we remember those we’ve lost, from heroes on a magnificent scale to personal loss born of love and familiarity, that some people have unnatural levels of courage. Whether unknown and unnoticed everymen or valiant flyboys with unrelenting drive and heroism, the world is richer and safer to have had them pass through their own lifetimes…and ours in memory.

Flyboys Official Trailer