Thursday, January 5, 2012
(October 1942, U.S.)
During World War II, there was no greater movie hero than the great John Wayne! However, I'm convinced that just about every character he played in nearly every war film he did was pretty much the same guy! He was often a military commander who cared for his men, but would not take any crap from them and would harden his heart and distance himself if it meant keeping them safe and winning the day against the enemy. Hoever, redundant or not, during a time when Americans were rallied against the Japanese and our patriotism was at its peak, this was probably just the way we wanted "the Duke" to be. It should be noted, though, that FLYING TIGERS was Wayne's first war film and also one of the first films (if not THE first film) to make use of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which had only occurred eleven months prior. It would seem that American movie audiences were not only ready to address what had happened on screen, but were also ready to see "the Japs" get their asses kicked by some good 'ol fashioned American military heroes!
And so, the great John Wayne in this film leads the Flying Tigers, a legendary unit not sanctioned by the American government at the time. The pilots are the usual mixed bunch, motivated by money (as they receive a bounty for each aircraft shot down), patriotism or just for the thrill of aerial combat. These black and white sequences of aerial combat, by the way, are some of the best you're likely to see on screen for that particular era. However, their motivations, whatever they might be, are suddenly altered and put to the real test following the events of December 7, 1941. Money no longer matters. Patriotism and victory against the Japanese empire will surely win the day and it'll feel damn good to be an American. It's just a shame that Hollywood could not have returned to that old fashioned American spirit after 9/11. Perhaps that was when we need John Rambo the most; fighting Al Qaeda!
One thing that does irritate me, though, in FLYING TIGERS is this constantly repeated camera shot of the Japanese pilots holding their faces in agony whenever one of their planes is hit by bullets. They ridiculously look more like they've been doused in the face with hard water rather than shot to pieces. Watch the film and you'll see what I mean. On the other side of the coin, though, is a particular shot of the camera panning down to the desk, stopping at a page-a-day calendar with the date Sunday, December 7, 1941. It's almost chilling to watch that shot because we already know what's about to happen on that day.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Woody Jason: "Now wait a minute, fellas, we're all makin' the same salary - six hundred buck a month and five hundred a Jap, right?"
Pilot: "You know, back home most of us have killed rattle snakes whether there's a bounty on 'em or not."
Woody: "I know, but you're protecting your own home. This is not our home. It's not our fight. It's a business. And boy, I hope business is GOOD."