Rated 4.0

The exploits of the Lafayette Escadrille (American fliers in the French air service during World War I) are dramatized by director Tony Bill and writers Phil Sears, Blake T. Evans and David S. Ward. It’s a rousing throwback to a onetime Hollywood staple that has been off the screen for over 30 years: gallant devil dogs of the air defying death in their rickety crates and haunted by memories of buddies who didn’t come back. All the usual elements—archetypes, clichés; call them what you will—are put over with manly conviction by a fine ensemble cast (James Franco, Martin Henderson, Jean Reno, Tyler Labine, Abdul Salis and more), punctuated by dazzling air-combat scenes and sporting an air of authenticity. (The only real anachronism is the title; “flyboys” didn’t enter the language until World War II.)