Using thrilling, vibrant, aerial photography, “Gray Eagles” shows the reunion between a humble WWII Mustang ace and the historic plane, that after 60 years, he never thought he'd see again. Inspired by the flood of memories triggered by this unimaginable encounter with a long lost friend, the 88-year old pilot finally breaks his silence, sharing his stories and experiences of war with the grandchildren who never thought they'd hear them.
Unlike traditional historical films, “Gray Eagles” is told from a unique perspective. Rather than rely on montages of archival footage, the film not only uses beautiful high-definition photography, it tells the story from the viewpoint of Brooks' grandchildren, giving it a youthful, contemporary voice. The survival of history depends on the sharing of first-hand accounts. It is this human connection across generations that makes the film's message so deeply emotional and poignant.
As a boy, filmmaker Chris Woods had a neighbor named Jim Brooks. A soft-spoken man, Brooks' unassuming façade was hiding a daring past as a Mustang pilot during World War II. On rare occasions, Brooks would tell young Woods stories of that time and place, firing the young boy's imagination with images of aerial battles and death-defying engagements. Brooks couldn't know at the time, but by recounting his stories, he was guaranteeing that at least one more generation would hold these memories for safe keeping.
In truth, those stories did more than that. Woods went on to become an accomplished pilot and plane restorer. A tired old Mustang came across his path, and he decided to paint it identically to the Mustang Brooks flew in Europe called “February.” It would become Woods' homage to the man who ignited his desire for flight and helped fuel his passion for history. But more importantly, “February” would inspire Brooks, a man whose stoic reluctance to share his war stories had prevented his family from knowing his courageous past, to break his silence. Partaking in the reunion of their grandfather with the Mustang “February,” we watch as Jim's grandchildren begin to appreciate more deeply their grandfather's contributions to his generation and theirs, and in the process gain a first-hand experience for themselves that none could have imagined.
Woods' interviews with Brooks, his grandchildren, and other airmen who were touched by the Mustang's role in history are cut together to create a compelling narrative to accompany the stunning photography. The raw wartime photos of the ace and the Mustang in their prime add depth and visual impact to this memorable, emotional, and powerful film.