Blaine Rawlings (James Franco), William Jensen (Philip Winchester), Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis), Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine) and Eddie Beagle (David Ellison) go to France during WW1 to fight for the French against the Germans. Specifically they are learning to be aerial gunman. The US does not join the war for another two years, and each man has his own reason for going to fight: Rawling's family ranch was foreclosed; Jensen's family has a history of military involvement and he wants to continue the tradition; Skinner want to give back to France for embracing him when America (his own country) rejected him due to his skin color; Lowry has been a big disappointment to his family and this is a punishment/means to prove himself, and finally Beagle is running away from a botched armed robbery indictment (story is very funny by the way). They are later joined by others Americans, of note Lyle Porter (a very strong Christian), and Vernon Toddman. They are lead by brash and abrasive but haunted Reed Cassidy.
Cassidy, along with the French Captain of the unit, Thenault (Jean Reno) teach these boys to fly and fire a gun while firing at moving objects with varying success Beagle is always off his mark. Cassidy is a good man, and tries to watch out for his new charges as best as he can, but he knows that the life of an airman is dangerous and that death is very likely. He has lost most of his friends to this war already, as such as flyer you need to make your own purpose in fighting for this war. He has a particular vendetta against a German Airman (The Black Falcon - who is not particularly liked by his own men either) that has limited honor and seems to enjoy killing. As such he goes on additional missions to find this pilot.
At the same time, Rawlings develops a romance with a young French woman. He initially thinks she is a prostitute but quickly finds out she is not a prostitute but lives on a nearby farm with her brother's children. When the Germans march into her local area, Rawlings quickly flies to her aid (against his captain's orders). He is able to save her and her family, but she is shot in the process. She lives, but is sent to a hospital in Reine (I think that is correct). Later, she and her family have to flee that area, and Rawlings and her promise to meet in Paris after the war.
Great aerial battle scenes! This is should be approximately the order that characters died/what happens to them.
Fight 1 German Ammo Factory - Unsuccessful
Vernon Toddman plane shot down, but lives. Killed on land when seen by the Black Falcon.
Jensen Clipped on the side of his neck by a rifle shot. He goes into severe psychological shock when he returns. He unable to fly again for most of the movie.
Fight 2 Bring Down German Zeppelin Successful!
Lyle Porter shot down while trying to destroy zeppelin
Cassidy Shot almost to death while fighting Black Falcon. Before he dies, he suicide dives his plane into the Zeppelin.
Beagle plane shot down. He lives, but he lands within a French-German fighting zone, and he cannot escape because his hand is trapped underneath the wing of his plane. Rawlings saves him by chopping off his hand.
Fight 3 German Ammo Factory Successful!
Lowry- Plane catches on fire when it is shot at by the Germans. No hope for survival, Lowry kills himself rather than burn to death. Lowry uses a pistol given to him, and all the airman, earlier in the movie for this exact reason. When the plane catches on fire there are three things you can do 1) Jump out of the plane at 10,000 ft. 2) Burn to Death, or 3) Shot yourself.
Beagle constructed a hook for his missing hand, as such he can continue to fly. Finally, corrects his sighting on his gun and is able to take down a plane and save Skinner.
Rawlings sets off to find the Black Falcon once and for all. Sets out on his own, and finds the German airfield. He attacks and the BF follows. Rawlings is winning until more German fighters show up. Finally, Rawlings the French-American Flying Squadron has shown up with Jensen (recovered), Skinner, and Beagle. They take care of the other German Fighters. Rawlings continues to fight BF and looks like he is going to lose because the BF is behind him, Rawlings has been shot in the shoulder and Rawling's air gun is jammed. Rawlings changes position and flies parallel to BF, takes out his pistol and shoots BF in the head. BF dies, and the flyboys return home.
Jensen continues to fight in the War, and receives a hero's welcome when he returns home.
Skinner joins the Americans when they join the war, but is not allowed to fly due to his color. He becomes one the first air postal carrier's pilots.
Beagle remains in Europe, marries an Italian girl, and creates a flying circus.
Rawlings goes to Paris to find Lucienne (his French girl) but does not find her. Returns to Texas and creates one of the largest cattle ranches in the US.
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