The Washington Post had an interesting piece up the other day about Flyboys, which opened this weekend. Now, I have to admit, when the trailers for Flyboys started popping up on TV, my initial reaction was, "What the hell is this film, and why do I not know anything about it?" quickly followed by "God I hope this doesn't have Ben Affleck and a song by Aerosmith anywhere in it." After reading William Booth's interview in the Post with the film's director, Tony Bill, though, I'm considerably more intrigued, or at the very least, impressed with what it took to get the film made -- not to mention with Booth, who gamely strapped himself into a Marchetti SF 260 ("the Ferrari of the skies") for the interview.

Flyboys, about World War One fighter pilots, is one of the costliest independent films ever made. It took over two years, at a cost of $85 million, to make and market the film, which was completed without studio backing. Bill, who won an Oscar in 1973 as a producer of The Sting, hadn't directed a feature in seven years when he was tapped by producer Dean Devlin (Independence Day, The Patriot) to direct Flyboys. Devlin pegged Bill for the gig because he wanted a real pilot behind the camera of Flyboys, and Bill, an expert aerobatic pilot, has been flying since he was 14.

I haven't seen Flyboys, but in reading the Post interview, the one thing that comes through is Bill's passion for planes and his knowledge of the subject matter. In explaining why the film uses modern special effects to bring audiences into what it felt like to be a WWI fighter pilot, Bill notes they couldn't film real planes doing what fighter pilots really did back then because "It's too dangerous." The life expectancy of a pilot in 1917, he notes, was three to six weeks. Many of the reviews I've read on the film, though, seem to be deploring the use of CGI as taking away from the authenticity of the flying scenes. So the question is, when does CGI work to enhance a film, and when does it detract from the overall effect? Here's where you get to weigh in, Cinematical readers. If you've seen Flyboys, let us know what you think of the CGI-enhanced dogfight scenes. Do they do justice to the real pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, the real-life American fighter squadron on whom the film is loosely based? Or would you rather have seen less "cool" and more authenticity?

[ Via Moovy Boovy ]