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From: Mark Leeper <mleeper@optonline.net>
Subject: Review: The Millionaires' Unit (2018)
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Subject: Review: The Millionaires Unit (2018)
From: Mark Leeper <mleeper@optonline.net>
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               (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: In much the style of an episode of "The 
    American Experience", this documentary recounts the 
    history of a wealthy group of men at Yale who in 1914 
    decided they wanted the fun of learning to fly 
    airplanes.  Then World War I broke out and they were 
    guided by the principle that "of those to whom much has 
    been given, much is expected."  They determined to learn 
    to fly and to be prepared if/when the United States 
    would join the fighting.  They would be ready with 
    America's first real air force.  "The First Yale Unit", 
    as they called themselves--or "The Millionaires' Unit", 
    as the newspapers called them--went from private 
    ownership to being the basis of United States air power 
    and left an extraordinary record.  The documentary is 
    based on the book of the same title by Mark Wortman.  
    Darroch Greer who shares director credit with Ron King 
    wrote the film.  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

In the days before the First World War a group of high-spirited 
students from Yale wanted to learn to fly the newly invented 
airplane.  It was a rich man's hobby.  But from the ground they 
could tell there was nothing so free as the freedom of the air.  
Flying was just one of the privileges of the wealthy.  The small 
group got permission to form the Yale men into an official reserve 

Then suddenly war was declared in Europe.  Woodrow Wilson had so 
far kept the United States out of the war, but the boys from Yale 
expected the United States would be pulled into the war and they 
wanted to be ready.  They felt if they had the privilege so they 
also had responsibility.  So in a spirit of responsibility and 
perhaps in the expectation of jolly good sport they went to France 
to join the fight.  Paris was better than expected (with women 
coming up to them asking "sleep... with... me...?").  But soon they 
were in the war and they stayed until the end.  The film gives an 
engrossing history of those Yale grads over World War I's four 
years.  The spirit of the film is ebullient well into the war, but 
it would be unrealistic to expect that some of the men would not be 
killed in battle or in flying miscalculations.  The film does have 
its downbeat stories.  But overall the spirit ran high.

There is a lot to tell about in those four years in a 121-minute 
film.  This is a film for people who like flying themselves or 
watching flying, war stories, or history, witness testimony or 
expert testimony, stories of courage, or stories of romance.  The 
filmmakers do go the whole American Experience route with news and 
documentary footage, talking heads interviews, and narration.  The 
narrator is actor Bruce Dern.  If he does not seem to be of the 
Yale mold, he narrates because he is the grand-nephew of a flyer in 
the Yale unit.  His contribution to the story telling is one of the 
few stylistic elements that might be questioned.  He tries to add a 
little too much zest to the reading, emphasizing some words for no 
apparent reason as if to create dramatic effect.

"Of those to whom much has been given, much is expected."  That is 
the theme of the film and the philosophy of the unit and a rare one 
today more than a century later.  I rate this film a high +2 on the 
-4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper