29 March 2002 | Snow Leopard
Good Entertainment, Despite Some Flaws
This entertaining and occasionally impressive movie is still well worth seeing in spite of its flaws. The combat scenes alone make the rest of it worth watching, and Clara Bow gives a very good performance. She has plenty of energy as always, and here she makes her character especially sympathetic. But it has its weaknesses, too. The story is contrived and full of obvious holes, and except for Bow most of the acting is rather routine (Buddy Rogers is as likable as ever, but no more).
The highlights of "Wings" come in the battle scenes, and they are awfully impressive. Done without computers or other such advantages, they are exciting and are usually completely realistic. The aerial dogfight scenes are especially dazzling. This part of the movie is not shallow stuff, either, since it has a good balance between the thrilling and the horrifying. If the main story-line had been better, this could have worked very well as a classic film about the realities of war and its effects on the young persons who must carry the heaviest load in a war.
But unfortunately, it has the story that it has, which could easily have been better. It is far too heavy-handed, and is also riddled with unlikely coincidences, implausible developments, strange decisions by the characters, and many other such holes. If you can somehow look past all these problems, then it produces some moving and emotional moments, but such moments are too often undone by the contrived ways that they are set up. It's just the kind of mess that has often impressed the individuals who vote for well-known awards, but a movie with such strengths deserved to have a much better plot.
Nevertheless, it is still well worth watching for its strengths, and not just because it is the answer to some trivia questions. Just in case there are any modern movie fans who have accidentally wandered into the silents section of the database, please don't think that this is the best of what silent cinema has to offer, just because it won an arbitrary award. There are many silent film masterpieces that are vastly better than this. But it's good entertainment, and has some portions that were made with great skill.