Red Tails ★½

The story of the Tuskegee airmen, a crew of African American pilots during World War II, deserved to be told but I question whether George Lucas was the man to bring this tale of heroism and discrimination to the screen. Although Anthony Hemingway is the director of Red Tails, the influence of Lucas’ groping mitts is evident in every single frame. It is earnest to a fault, cheesy as hell and laden with enough unconvincing CGI to make it look just as far fetched as the Star Wars saga.

In some ways its old fashioned Boys Own Adventure tone is refreshing but some semblance of subtlety wouldn’t have gone amiss. It attempts to capture the spirit of the war movies Lucas himself would have grown up with yet it lacks the charm and sense of characters these movies still possess today. Instead we are lumbered with derring-do fighter pilots that are only distinguishable by their call signs. For a film trying to shine a light on forgotten heroes it is dispiriting to think they couldn’t try and make these heroes feel like real, fleshed out, people. Even their conflict with their own side and fight to be treated as equals is glossed over and simplified so as not to upset its nauseatingly patriotic tone.

Dialogue is predictably clunky with trite and catchy soundbites being favoured over naturalism. Performances are equally unconvincing from David Oyelowo cocksure ‘Lightning’ to the earnest constipation of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard’s senior officers. Even the film’s supposed strong suit, the aerial combat, is far from impressive. They are well choreographed but the excessively shiny special effects fail to convince and the German enemy are as cartoonish as a propaganda poster from the 1940s.

These men deserved better than this.

Adam liked this review