Oscars Challenge #57: Wings (1927) Movie Review
Isn't it outstanding that even though the Academy Awards existed for more than 90 years, the first film that won Best Picture (initially named Outstanding Picture) was still relevant even today? The year when the Academy is still trying to establish its rules and films are still raw, I cannot imagine how big it was for this film to win the award.
This might have been the 1920s version of Top Gun. A film that establishes the baseline for aviation movies.
Wings is the first silent film to win the award. It follows the story of two young male rivals, Jack Powell and David Armstrong. Both of them are vying for the attention of the beautiful Sylvia Lewis. Jack doesn't know that his childhood friend, Mary Preston, is in love with him. The two men enlist in the army as combat pilots. They leave for training when Jack mistakenly thinks Sylvia likes him. She likes David and lets him know about her feelings. She kept it silent for Jack because she didn't want to hurt his feelings.
The two men get close during the training camp and successfully endure the challenges. They became best friends and graduated with flying colors. The two of them are sent to fight Imperial Germany.
During their service, the two became the best pilots in the army. Mary joins the war as an ambulance driver and learns about Jack's reputation as one of the best combat fighters. He briefly met him but was too drunk to recognize her. The two join the Battle of Saint-Mihiel but struggle with the cunning tactics of the German Imperial air force. The victory was almost reached when the German army shot and captured David. Frustrated and heartbroken, Jack tries to rescue his best friend from the enemy's hands.
Wings is a film directed by William A. Wellman. Starring Clara Bow, Charles Rogers, Richard Arlen, and Jobyna Ralston.
Compared to today's standards, where almost all action films are composed or made of CGI, Wings did it with practical effects. All the plane-flying scenes are natural. The actors knew how to fly the plane, and some stuntmen performed controlled crashes. It's pretty astounding knowing that a film almost 100 years old overdid itself and is still comparable even today. That's why this is the 1920s version of Top Gun.
This is history at its finest.
This is the first film to incorporate nudity and probably the first LGBT male-male kiss. Since this film was made before the Pre-Code era in Hollywood, they still had no rules established back then.
The story is pretty simple. A straightforward girl falls in love with a guy who likes someone else, but eventually, they both will have a happy ending. It's no different from romance films today. There are a couple of jaw-dropping scenes, especially the wild dogfights, but this is still an easy watch unless you don't know how to tackle silent films.
The thing about silent films is that you need to focus throughout the whole movie because some of the characters' dialogues get flashed on the screen.
Honestly, I enjoyed the film even though the whole movie felt like watching moving things in a sepia filter. It started slow, but the climax was breathtaking and heartbreaking.
I give this a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars rating.