Wings (1927)













Movies have been around for a while. "Wings" is documentation of just this fact. This movie has survived nearly 90 years...by any standards, that's impressive. But I was expecting to watch this movie just as a sort of way to complete a list (The Best Picture List). After the disappointment that "The Broadway Melody" brought, I wasn't anticipating greatness from the picture that took home the award just one year earlier (the first winner). But "Wings" is an incredibly solid movie that stands alone as one of the best movies from the early part of the 20th century.
It's a story of heroism and love, rejections, and heartbreaks. It's a story about two men who fall for the same woman...I'm not sure why because she's like a brick wall. She's bland and vacant when they talk to her, but still they both pledge their love for her and a rivalry begins.
The war comes and they both become fighter pilots and their rivalry soon turns to friendship as they realize that quarreling over a woman is silly (particularly in this case). So they go to war and they protect each other in the air. But that's not all of it, there are various complications that come and go and their friendship will be put to the test.
"Wings" is a silent film, something that I thought would be off-putting but wasn't. The use of the drama and the overacting is fun and surprisingly it works.
The most compelling techniques employed by "Wings" are the actual 'dog fights' themselves. The battle sequences in the air are so finely crafted that it's hard to keep in mind that this film is so early in movie history that it doesn't even have any sound! Planes plummet to the earth in flames and crash and then explode, and the camera never moves. I'm still shaking my head, trying to figure out how they did it.
One scene has the Germans bombing a village, the camera looks out of the belly of the plane and never budges as the bombs fall from the plane and explode into the village. They must have blown up an entire village set just for that one scene—dedication.
But even though the drama is what holds the picture together, the war scenes themselves are pretty great. The explosions and camera angles are very modern, seemingly disappearing for the 30s and 40s in film. Even "All Quiet on the Western Front" didn't have the action that this movie has.
Even though all the interactions between characters aren't always seamless the characters themselves are compelling enough to make the picture work. It's a great achievement and landmark in film history.
"Wings" is dedicated to the men who lost their lives as pilots in the war.
It's poetic and touching. A picture that will never fade or become outdated.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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