Saturday, May 18, 2024

“THE BLUE ANGELS”

THE STORY – Follows the veterans and newest class of Navy and Marine Corps flight squadron as they go through intense training and into a season of heart-stopping aerial artistry.

THE CAST – N/A

THE TEAM – Paul Crowder (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 94 Minutes


Living in Panama City, Florida, as a child, the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola was only a couple hours’ drive away. My father (who served in the Navy for twenty-five years) used to drag me to the museum on more than a couple of occasions. Also, Pensacola is where the daredevils of aviation, the Blue Angels, are based. Begrudgingly, I rolled along with my dad to make him happy as any good son would do. Also surprising, considering most children experience a plane obsessive phase, although mine never lasted as long as one would traditionally expect. But after seeing the Blue Angels in person, what they do is nothing short of spectacular. It’s an overwhelming sensation you’re left with as the show ends, the planes fly into the distance, and the crowd dissipates. Paul Crowder, the director of the new documentary film “The Blue Angels,” aims to deliver that same adrenaline-fueled euphoria to audiences through the magic of a movie screen. While the film never gets audiences as invested in these pilots’ personal lives away from the cockpit, you can’t help but be captivated when the flying is happening.

“The Blue Angels” documents these extraordinary naval pilots and crew members of the Blue Angels team throughout an entire season. Most people (including myself) usually spend less time thinking about what goes into the preparation of these aerial shows. These pilots don’t just step into a plane the day of the show and perform these stunts. They’re not only flying in millions of dollars of government equipment but are responsible for their safety and those in the audience below watching. Like a professional athlete, a rigorous amount of training goes on throughout the season before any of their shows, let alone before their whole season. It’s like when NFL players report to the mini-camp weeks ahead of their mandatory pre-season training. Calling these pilots committed would be an understatement. The film has extensive sequences of the pilots having meetings where they watch their practice sessions and break down what needs to be improved. The pilots’ mindset instilled in the audience is that there’s no such thing as a perfect flight. It also adds a level of intensity that feels palpable, especially witnessing new pilots enter the fold who are learning everything we, as audiences, are as well. Another appreciated aspect that Crowder delves into is putting the spotlight on all the crew members who aid these all-star pilots. “The Blue Angels” underlines how every member is essential to making this program what it is. Of course, the stars of the film that get the most attention are the planes themselves. Crowder is more than aware they’re the reason anyone who goes to their nearest IMAX screening to watch this documentary.

Taking a page out of “Top Gun: Maverick” (which is an apt comparison due to this film being produced by Glen Powell), Crowder emphasizes capturing these extensive flying sequences in IMAX cameras. That ambition pays off as it’s far and beyond the main reason to watch “The Blue Angels.” Watching this film in IMAX is the closest you’ll get to watching a Blue Angels show in person. The loud roaring of the planes flying around drowns out any distractions as you become fully immersed. The aerial sequences as a whole feel balanced between being well-captured and precisely edited. It doesn’t matter whether it is a training sequence or the actual show itself. It’s highly recommended that viewers should watch “The Blue Angels” on the biggest screen possible. Filming in IMAX works successfully for the flying sequences, but it doesn’t come off as smoothly during the interpersonal one-on-one interviews with the pilots and crew members. Whether it is the framing of the interview or the use of IMAX cameras, each interview looks abnormally large. It felt like the subjects of each interview sat way too close to the front of the camera, with insufficient space in between. It’s distracting at first, but you become somewhat adjusted to it. “The Blue Angels” also takes the film some time to get into the more personal lives of some of the pilots as it spends a reasonable amount of time getting the audience to understand the different positions of each pilot, the specific procedures they follow, and their goals for the upcoming season. While the personal drama of some of the pilots’ lives is not as gripping as the flying itself, seeing the process of selecting a new flight leader for the Blue Angels provides intriguing insight into what goes on behind the scenes. Seeing the former flight leader (who’s in charge of choosing his successor) have the bittersweet acceptance of his time with the program coming to an end as the season comes to a close is the closest to drawing out any emotional reaction from myself that wasn’t tied to seeing a cool aerial trick pulled off.

The last act also spends a decent amount of time seeing the future members of the Blue Angels program enter the qualification process, which is entertaining in parts. Still, after a while, you ultimately just want to go back to being in a strategy meeting with the pilots or be back up in the air with them. Crowder is very economical with “The Blue Angels” as it’s a quick documentary with only a ninety-four-minute runtime. There isn’t entirely much below the surface that leaves any profound reason to remember it, but when those planes are up in the air, you can’t help but be impressed, even if it’s only for brief moments at a time.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Features stunningly captured aerial sequences that transport audiences to one of their shows in ways they could never imagine. Director Paul Crowder does a good job shooting these flying sequences while proficiently editing them.

THE BAD - Audiences never get as invested in all of the personal lives of these pilots as it never becomes as interesting as watching them fly or discuss the technical aspects of the flights themselves.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Features stunningly captured aerial sequences that transport audiences to one of their shows in ways they could never imagine. Director Paul Crowder does a good job shooting these flying sequences while proficiently editing them.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Audiences never get as invested in all of the personal lives of these pilots as it never becomes as interesting as watching them fly or discuss the technical aspects of the flights themselves.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"THE BLUE ANGELS"