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The Independent Critic

Bruce Dern (narrator), Marc Wortman, Michael Gates-Fleming, Henry P. Davison II, Gaddis Smith, Adele Quartley Brown, Hill Goodspeed, Erl Gould Parnell, Daniel P. Davison, Geoffrey Rossano, William MacLeish, John Lehman, Gene DeMarco, Malcolm P. Davison, Javier Arango, Sunny Toulmin
Darroch Greer and Ron King
120 Mins.

 "The Millionaires' Unit" Available Now on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray 
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The Millionaires' Unit is a feature-length documentary recently released on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray that tells an aspect of World War I history not often known to the general public, the story of a privileged group of college students from Yale who formed a private air militia in preparation for America’s entry into World War One.  They were known as the First Yale Unit, dubbed "the millionaires' unit by the New York press, and the became the founding squadron of the U.S. Naval Air Reserve and were, in fact, the first to fly for the United States during World War I. 

Co-directed by Darroch Greer and Ron King, The Millionaires' Unit is a fascinating documentary that will appeal, in particular, to true history buffs who will appreciate Greer and King's attention to detail. While the average moviegoer may wish the doc was just a tad shorter, it's that attention to detail and intimate knowledge of the subject that makes The Millionaires' Unit a "must own" documentary for true war history and World War I history buffs. The film features the involvement of multiple individuals who are direct relations to members of the First Yale Unit including the film's narrator, Academy Award nominee Bruce Dern, who is a grand-nephew to one of the aviators. 

The Millionaires' Unit had an extended festival run that included successful screenings at GI Film Festival, Garden State Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Kansas City Film Fest and others. The film had seven years of development and production and was filmed on three continents, but perhaps even more importantly had the intimate involvement of many of the mens' families with much of the film's dialogue coming straight from letters back home, diaries and actual conversations. 

It is important to remember that at the time all of this occurred only 13 years had passed since the Wright Brothers had even made their successful flight at Kitty Hawk. All of this is new territory and it's fascinating to learn almost jarring details, such as the life expectancy of new pilots entering the war was just 20 minutes, and how much of a huge, mind-boggling risk this all ways for these young men, most of whom came from affluent families, and who truly embraced the idea that for those whom much is given much is expected. Trubee Davison, who essentially initiated the entire idea, was the son of J.P. Morgan's right hand man, a young man born into wealth who could have easily rested on that wealth but instead sacrificed greatly. 

There are many other stories told within The Millionaires' Unit, some fascinating and some that weigh down the film's slow just a tad. The same is true for Bruce Dern's narration, narration that is often vibrant and alive and as fascinated with the stories as we are and other times falling back into a sort of History Channel doc kind of rhythm that becomes a little monotonous. 

For more information on the film and its stories, visit The Millionaires' Unit website. If you're a military history buff, you'd do well by yourself to purchase this film and support its indie filmmakers and their devotion to telling a well researched, intellectually stimulating and richly human story about America's not so distant past and those who fought to preserve it.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 

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