Greatest-generation stoicism meets gushing contemporary sentiment in Honor Flight, Dan Hayes’s documentary about the Wisconsin chapter of the eponymous program, which flies World War II veterans out to see their monument in Washington, D.C. Honor Flight’s movers and shakers recount the genesis of the idea, with their fundraising necessarily conducted against the backdrop of an emptying hourglass, as we’re informed that 900 American WWII vets die every day. Honor Flight is, however, already a success story by the time Hayes is on hand to shoot the third 747 flight, which robs his film of any traditional suspense or narrative contour. Instead, after introducing several of the selected veterans and their stories before takeoff, we follow them from the monument to Arlington National Cemetery to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to their homecoming fanfare, all along the way being deluged with tears. It is hard to recall another film in which more than half of the interviews are interrupted by choking up, a fact that does not escape notice: “Are we going into another tear-jerking?” asks one subject before complying. Howard Hawks said, “When you’re doing a story about old people, you can afford to be sentimental,” and Honor Flight takes full license, promoting an undeniably decent and worthy cause through sometimes invasive emotional prying.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 5, 2012