New Film Lets You See Daring Blue Angels Stunts Through the Pilot’s Eyes


If there’s one subject ideal for IMAX, it’s the U.S. Navy’s elite demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, renowned for their breathtaking maneuvers with four F/A-18 jets flying in close synchrony at 400 miles per hour, only inches apart.

Now, actor and producer Glen Powell, known for his roles in “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Devotion,” and producer J.J. Abrams of the “Mission: Impossible” series, have teamed up to bring “The Blue Angels” to life. The documentary, which many museums and specialty IMAX screens plan to showcase this summer, is now available on Prime Video.

Abrams, celebrated for his “Star Trek” films, contrasts his typical special effects scenes—”You plan these moves and it’s cool, but it’s not real”—with what he observed with the Blue Angels. “What these pilots do, it’s real. There are no second chances. It is truly a life-and-death demonstration.”

In an interview with Capt. Greg Wooldridge, a longtime leader of the Blue Angels, he described the film as visually “unparalleled and unmatched” due to the production crew’s expertise.

“They got Kevin LaRosa, who did aerial coordination on ‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ into a helicopter with these Sony Venice cameras and the Phantom high-speed camera that records at a thousand frames per second,” said Wooldridge. “It’s unprecedented, and it will endure forever.”

Film director Paul Crowder (“Once In A Lifetime”) noted that their production helicopter, equipped with bulky cameras, flew in formation with the Blue Angels, which had never been done before. “Convincing the Navy to approve this and getting the pilots comfortable enough to trust us to place a helicopter in the middle of their formation were significant challenges.”

Similar to the recent Tom Cruise hit, viewers witness the pilots’ camaraderie, teamwork, and a bit of competitive spirit. Beyond the stunning visuals and behind-the-scenes squadron meetings, the film highlights the sacrifices of military families.

Service and Spectacle

Of 3,700 Navy pilots, only six join the Blue Angels, each serving for two years. With flight leader Capt. Brian Kesselring at the helm, viewers meet two new members, Chris Kapuschansky and Scott Goossens, who must master the squadron’s complex choreography.

Filmmaker Crowder, whose crew spent a year with the pilots, was impressed by their journey.

“The new pilots face a lot of jargon to catch up on,” Crowder stated. “They undergo high-g training in the centrifuge. They shift from fleet flying to flying 18 inches apart—it’s a significant change; they’ve never flown that close to another jet.”

Growing up, nearly every summer, my dad would take me and my brothers to watch air shows. My wife, an “Air Force brat,” continues this tradition with our family, marking air shows on our kids’ calendar months in advance. The sights and sounds of supersonic jets and massive engines create unforgettable memories, though the crowds seem to have dwindled over the years.

In “The Blue Angels” film, viewers who have only seen these maneuvers from the ground now see from the cockpit and helicopter shots, captured midair in high-definition slow motion.

If air shows offer a glimpse into life on base, this documentary brings viewers even closer. Much of the flight action occurs at the squadron’s training base, Naval Air Facility El Centro in southern California—familiar from “Top Gun”—and at the Blue Angels’ home base in Pensacola.

In the Florida Panhandle, the film slows down to show the home life of Capt. Kesselring, his Marine officer wife Ashley, and their two young children.

“Though elite pilots, they have lives beyond their duties,” said Crowder. “They have kids to raise. Some squadron personnel were getting married. We tried to capture as much of that as possible.”

“They pursue perfection in military life seriously because their families depend on them.”

A Larger Purpose

Capt. Wooldridge, an executive producer of the film, is the only commanding officer in U.S. Naval history to lead the Blue Angels on three separate tours.

Despite his esteemed leadership of the squadron, he praises the meticulous efforts of everyone “on the team,” which the aviators rely on.

“You might be called ‘boss,’” Wooldridge said. “But you’re no more important than the supply officers, maintenance crews, and every enlisted person on base. If each person doesn’t perform their job to the best of their ability, everything falls apart.”

Wooldridge appears in some scenes as the current leader, Capt. Kesselring, plays a key role in selecting the next commanding officer and new squadron pilots. While only candidates with 3,000 flight hours and commanding a tactical jet squadron can apply, “The Blue Angels” shows potential leaders assembling globally.

“It’s an honor to represent the entire Navy and Marine Corps before the American public for two years,” Wooldridge said. “It’s crucial for the Navy to present themselves at their best. Flying jets is fun, but our role is also important.”

From the rigorous training regimen with long days to extended periods away from family, the Blue Angels’ work is portrayed as far from glamorous. Yet, the squadron aims for their spectacular shows to educate about military service for the country.

Wooldridge expresses gratitude for Navy personnel on the front lines. “They endure long durations at sea. Being the liaison between them and the public is something we cherish.”

“The Blue Angels” is streaming on Prime Video and showing in select theaters. 

Josh Shepherd
Josh Shepherd
Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy for several media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service, and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.

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