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The Blue Angels Film Review: Flying High

The Blue Angels gives viewers a behind-the-scenes peek into the challenging yet rewarding careers of the Navy’s elite flight demonstration team.  

Director: Paul Crowder
Genre: Documentary
Run Time: 94′
IMAX Release: May 17, 2024
Prime Video Release: May 23, 2024

If you live in the USA, chances are you have attended a Blue Angels Air Show during your lifetime, or at the very least, have seen local news segments dedicated to the fleet whenever they come to town. Every year, the six-person squadron—consisting of demonstration pilots from the Marine Corps and Navy—visits cities all over the USA.

Each event across the country celebrates the skills and dedication of each pilot as they soar through the skies while performing intricate yet captivating maneuvers. In Paul Crowder’s magnetic new documentary film, The Blue Angels, viewers are given exclusive access inside the lives of seasoned Blue Angel aviators and a select few who are new members of the flight demonstration team.

What makes Crowder’s The Blue Angels documentary mesmerizing is the never-before-seen entrancing footage of the squadron in action, while also displaying the arduous recruiting and training process required to become one of the select group. Fans of the Blue Angels attend airshows to be wowed by the fleet’s highly impressive and technical flying maneuvers. However, as bystanders, most of us are unaware of just how much time, devotion, perseverance, and physicality are required when the pilots are preparing for such events.

Throughout the documentary, we learn that, as part of the squadron, long workdays are typical, further emphasizing the demanding nature of the job. The crew spends a significant amount of time together, fostering strong connections and professional camaraderie among colleagues. Though the pilots control their jets independently, the Blue Angels fly in tandem, and while in the air, there’s minimal room for error. Every decision and detail matters to ensure the safety of each fleet member. The Blue Angels doesn’t hide the fact that past human errors have resulted in devastating outcomes. It’s anxiety-inducing to consider how detrimental the smallest of mistakes can be, though each aviator’s dedication to the craft is inspiring and thrilling to observe.

During the Blue Angels training period, viewers are introduced to Lieutenant Commander Amanda Lee and Commander Alexander Armatas as they attend vigorous training to prepare for the upcoming 2022, 8-month-long Blue Angels season. One fascinating fact discovered throughout the film’s runtime is that the Blue Angels do not wear G-suits, as the inflation of the garment could apply pressure to the jet’s controls, leading to a dangerous cascade of events. This is a surprising revelation, yet all the more intriguing as the documentary educates the audience on how the fleet has to use muscle strength to combat G-forces, which takes a great deal of willpower.

The Blue Angels (© Amazon Content Services LLC)

To prepare Blue Angels for this, centrifuge testing takes place, and both Lee and Armatas end up passing out during the process. Though tough to watch, this training lesson shows the extraordinary stamina, talent, and mental fortitude needed to become a successful graduate. Lee joining the Blue Angels is such a significant part of the documentary, as she is the first-ever woman to fly fighter jets for the squadron. Her presence on the team proves to all women aspiring to pursue the same career path in a male-dominated work environment that their dreams are within reach.

When depicting the multifaceted aspects of the crew’s careers, the documentary shines. While offering glimpses into their worlds outside of work, the film primarily focuses on their training, responsibilities, and the majestic maneuvers and in-flight action that captivate audiences seeking a front-seat perspective of the job. The cinematography is breathtaking, and director of photography Jessica Young, aerial directors of photography Michael Fitzmaurice and Lance Benson, helicopter pilot Kevin LaRosa II, and aerial camera technician Jared Slater, collaborate seamlessly to deliver an engaging experience, particularly when visualizing the crew in the sky. Every flight experience allows the audience to see the world through a Blue Angels’ eyes and gain a deeper understanding of the complexities, visual splendor, and excitement of each airborne adventure.

Overall, The Blue Angels is an informative and captivating look at squadron life, offering viewers a wealth of information about the demands and rewards of being part of the Blue Angel’s flight demonstration team. Though watching the film will be enjoyable regardless, seeing the documentary in IMAX will certainly enhance the cinematic experience.

The Blue Angels will be released exclusively in IMAX theatres for one-week only beginning May 17, and streaming globally on Prime Video from May 23, 2024.

The Blue Angels: Trailer (Prime Video)
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