In 1917, just before the U.S. entered World War I and just after the introduction of airplanes in combat, several dozen American young men volunteered to help defend France against the Germans. Their aerial unit became known as the Lafayette Escadrille. Flyboys is inspired by their true story.
In the opening scenes, we're introduced to a handful of these men. There's Blaine Rawlings (James Franco), who's looking for his place in the world after the bank foreclosed on his family ranch. William Jensen (Philip Winchester) comes from a long line of military heroes, and wants to earn his spot of honor in the family tree. Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine) is bullied into volunteering by his domineering and disappointed dad. African-American boxer Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis), who'd moved to more diverse and accepting France years earlier, wants to pay back his adopted country. Once they arrive in the French airfield that will be their home, they're given a stiff welcome by French Captain Thenault (Jean Reno) and a jaded warning from lone American veteran Reed Cassidy (Martin Henderson).
Though Cassidy tells them the average life expectancy for new flyboys is three to six weeks, we don't get any hint of that danger during their training—which consists mainly of spinning in a chair and then trying to walk a straight line, shooting up bales of hay from a moving makeshift cockpit, and playing with toy planes. There's even the helpful instruction that those white aviator scarves aren't just fetching, they're also functional. In the midst of all this, while learning how to fly, two of our boys crash conveniently close to the local prostitute house. While his wounds are being nursed, our leading man, Rawlings, meets the one "nice girl" ...1