‘The Blue Angels’ Recap & Review: The Imax-Shot Documentary Looks Spectacular, But That’s About It

The Blue Angels happens to be a pretty cool title for a movie title. You are not at fault if you expect it to be some sort of thrilling thing. Well, “Blue Angels” is what the United States Navy flight demonstration squadron is popularly known as. In popular culture, it is, of course, the Top Gun films that have introduced us to them. Interestingly, Glen Powell, who rose to fame thanks to Top Gun: Maverick (2022), is one of the producers of the latest The Blue Angels movie. Powell also starred in another Blue Angels-inspired movie, Devotion (2023), following his Top Gun success. The Blue Angels is a documentary, though, about the real thing. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but The Blue Angels turns out to be somewhat underwhelming—just saying.


What is the documentary about? 

It is obviously about the Blue Angels, but this documentary doesn’t quite have a narrative per se. I mean, it does feature a character: Captain Brian Kesselring, who used to be in the Blue Angels and currently serves as the deputy commander of the Carrier Air Wing 5. Captain Brian is called “Boss,” and he speaks about how a pilot should not get too confident in this job. He also speaks about the procedure for becoming a Blue Angel and other technicalities. You get to hear things from other Blue Angels as well, as you follow them throughout the process of training. 

The documentary film does touch on the subject of personal life, where the families and marriages of these celebrated pilots often end up in a spot of bother. That comes as a side effect of an otherwise prestigious job, and there’s really no way around it. The documentary rounds things up by introducing us to Amanda Lee, who’s the first female pilot of Blue Angels. That confirms this is not a gender-definitive thing anymore, which is always great. 


Our Thoughts 

I was honestly excited when I got the assignment. I have loved the Top Gun movies (although a guy called Tom Cruise has played a major part in that), and a movie about the “real deal” was bound to excite me. And that’s not all—The Blue Angels happens to be the first documentary to be shot with the IMAX camera. For the uninitiated, that’s the camera that a lot of big-budget blockbuster films use, be it Dune (2021) (and the sequel) or Top Gun: Maverick. Naturally, as an admirer of spectacle, I was very much looking forward to watching The Blue Angels and then writing about it. 

As it happens, the documentary film does look absolutely spectacular. The IMAX cameras have clearly done their job. There’s quite a bit of flying, especially at the end. And thanks to how it’s shot, those scenes are quite breathtaking. But that’s just about it. There’s not much of a story or a character like Maverick to cheer for, not a conflict to get invested in; basically nothing remotely interesting, if I have to be blatant about it. Yes, I am aware that it’s a documentary, which is supposed to be about reality; naturally, one shouldn’t expect the kind of entertainment they usually get from a film like Top Gun. But documentary filmmaking, over the years, has turned into quite an exciting genre, where filmmakers are presenting so many real stories in different formats and making sure the audience stays with their stories. That’s where director Paul Crowder has missed the mark. 


The Blue Angels is technically pitch-perfect. It talks about a profession that many Americans dream of. Being a Navy pilot is indeed a huge deal, no doubt. The shiny-looking planes are almost used like a narrative tool here, and it is fascinating to look at those huge things (especially in theaters). But the audience isn’t here to watch a one and a half-hour-long commercial, right? You have to give them something other than spectacular shots of planes, especially when they have actually seen those in popular movies. Instead, the documentary film chooses to remain a bland documentary that doesn’t get into anything and keeps scratching the surface for its entire runtime.

In a way, I see this as a promotional campaign for the Navy. The kind of documentary you show at schools that inspires young kids to form dreams. There’s nothing wrong with that except that it’s a real slog, thanks to the whopping ninety-four minutes runtime. I mean, it pretty much shows everything in the opening ten minutes itself, which is a montage of brave pilots flying those planes, looking almost as cool as producer Glen Powell (I wouldn’t dare say Tom Cruise), with exciting music playing in the background. That is where it should have stopped, and it would have been a perfectly made, extended advertisement, which would have worked as well as the whole one-and-a-half-hour thing, maybe better. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I said movies like Top Gun have actually been better advertisements for the Blue Angels compared to this documentary.


I need to clarify that I am not at all criticizing the American Navy here or trying to discourage anyone who has the dream of joining the Blue Angels one day. I’m only dissecting the Paul Crowder-directed documentary here, which didn’t work for me. Not even the IMAX cameras or the involvement of someone like Glen Powell could save it. People who are really into fighter planes or have aviation experience (no matter whether it’s the Blue Angels or not) might like watching this for the relatability factor, but that doesn’t make this a good documentary. I don’t intend to use the word “boring,” but then again, I did check how much of it was left at least fifteen times while watching this thing.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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