When the action [from a story by John Monk Saunders] settles on terra firma there is nothing present that other war supers haven’t had, some to a greater degree. But nothing has possessed the graphic descriptive powers of aerial flying and combat that have been poured into this effort.
Some of the Magnascope battle scenes in the air are in color. Not natural but with sky and clouds deftly tinted plus spouts of flame shooting from planes that dive, spiral and even zoom as they supposedly plunge to earth in a final collapse.
Richard Arlen goes through the picture minus make-up. At least the cameras register him that way. Consequently he looks the high bred, high strung youngster who would dote on aviation and backs it up with a splendid performance that never hints of the actor. Charles Rogers’ effort is also first rate, the important point here being that these two boys team well together. There not being so much of Clara Bow in the picture, she gives an all around corking performance. El Brendel’s comedy is spasmodic and mostly early in the first half, while Gary Cooper is on and off within half a reel.
The most planes counted in the air at once are 18. But there are the pursuit and bombing machines, captive balloons, smashes and crashes of all types, with some of the shots of these ‘crack-ups’ remarkable. Fake stuff and double photography, too, although no miniatures in regard to the air action are discernible if used.
1927/28: Best Picture, Engineering Effects