Documentary Review: ‘The Blue Angels’

by | May 20, 2024 | Featured Post, Movie Reviews, Movies | 0 comments

Greetings again from the darkness. My preferred method of movie watching means no trailer to set the stage prior to the lights dimming. Sometimes this leaves my assumptions a bit off-track, which can result in either a pleasant surprise or a bit of disappointment. Acknowledging that The Blue Angels seem tailor-made for an IMAX presentation, I was prepared for a combination of cool photography and a history lesson. The surprise here was that filmmaker Paul Crowder (probably best known as the Editor for Ron Howard’s 2017 Beatles documentary) chose to only dabble in the history and instead focus on a single performance season of one team.

Without a doubt, the camera work is spectacular and takes full advantage of the IMAX screen. Some of the shots are breathtaking, and yet the awe generated by the actual technical maneuvers performed (regularly) by the team somehow eclipses what would otherwise be more than enough to keep us engaged. Crowder takes us into the prep room as the new team members study techniques that if performed incorrectly, could result in death. Six Navy and one Marine pilot make up each team, and these pilots enter as well-trained and then take it up a notch.

We do learn The Blue Angels were established in 1946 by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, a Commander of Allied forces during WWII. His original mission for the team remains in place today. The Blue Angels are really a marketing device with a dual purpose: to convince taxpayers that their money is well spent and to motivate youngsters to pursue a career as a Navy pilot. Yes, it’s every bit the recruiting tool of the TOP GUN movies, as The Blue Angels perform 60 aerial shows for hundreds of thousands of spectators around the country each year. If you are curious, this year’s budget for The Blue Angels is $36 million straight from the Department of Defense by way of tax dollars. You might ask if that’s a legitimate use of defense funds, but this movie is not going to answer that or even address it.

The behind-the-scenes and up-close analysis of the pilots and the program is quite impressive, and a hierarchy exists, as one would expect in the military. They are now flying Boeing F/A 18E/F Super Hornets, and the precision involved with their aerial maneuvers is mind-boggling. I won’t give it away other than to say inches are involved at 400 mph, making these visuals look like something out of a video game, rather than the actual sky with actual jets and actual pilots. While we aren’t allowed much insight into the maintenance of the jets, Crowder does emphasize how many are included on the total team. We learn about the 28 deaths that have occurred in the program over the years, and the final act revolves around the selection of the new team (including the first woman, Lt. Amanda Lee) and the transition of leadership. Like the flying, it’s all very precise. One thing becomes quite clear, they are all … “happy to be here.”

THE BLUE ANGELS is playing for one week at IMAX theaters through May 23, 2024, and streaming on Prime Video beginning May 23.

David Ferguson
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