THE BLUE ANGELS Have Rocketed into IMAX Theaters

Now playing in IMAX theaters for just one week before making its digital release on Amazon Prime on May 23, The Blue Angels takes viewers on an incredible journey with some of the world’s most elite pilots.

Rising star Glen Powell, who has played aviators in Hidden Figures, Devotion, and most notably in Top Gun: Maverick, and who holds a pilot’s license in real life, serves as a producer and spokesperson for the outstanding documentary, which uses thrilling cinematographic techniques like those pioneered for Maverick to bring similarly riveting immediacy to the real-life exploits of the nation’s most skilled fliers.

And as the previews like the one above demonstrate, it’s an amazing ride. All of the film’s aerial action is absolutely outstanding with knock-your-socks-off cinematography, bringing an immediate sense of reality to just how impressive and even intimate these maneuvers are. In some formations, jets may be roaring forward at 200mph while huddled only 12-18″ apart. Seeing this from a cockpit view is a lot different than getting the “air show view”. It’s eye-opening and hair-raising, especially in IMAX.

The aerial action is not the whole story though, and the film also shares the boots-on-the-ground story of the pilots, and to a lesser extent their large support teams of trainers and mechanics, and occasional glimpses of family and home life. The film also impresses with the unreal talents and dedication of the pilots, both in the sky and on the ground – their job isn’t just in the cockpit; it’s a total immersion in training, study, and even legacy: one of the team’s duties is to select and train their successors, a process that we get to see play out as one generation of the program gives way to the next (notably including the program’s first female pilot). For their intelligence, bravery, and distinguished excellence, each of these pilots is worthy of respect and admiration.

But stepping back and thinking more critically, the film ultimately fails to provide a satisfactory answer to a simple question: Why?

What is the purpose or necessity of this program? Why are the Blue Angels worth millions of dollars in tax-supported defense spending annually? (The most recent number I found online was $36 million in 2022; other years or estimates range up to $40 million). Why does the US military assume the extreme risk of pilots very tangibly putting their lives on the line – and 28, we learn, have paid this ultimate price – for a function that’s for neither defense nor combat, but for an extreme form of showboating?

I hoped for a thoughtful response addressing this, but the film inadvertently ended up reinforcing my more cynical presupposition. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, it’s explained, created the Blue Angels as a means to bring public attention to the skills and accomplishments of naval pilots. That’s their stated purpose. The Blue Angels are a marketing machine, and it’s hard to ultimately see this film as anything but a piece of that machine.

A thrillingly shot, stupefyingly immersive, worth-seeing-in-IMAX piece of that machine.

– A/V Out

Despite being heavily emphasized in its marketing as “Filmed for IMAX”, The Blue Angels won’t be there long! Get tickets now or watch on Amazon Prime beginning May 23rd.
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