out of Five
Running time: 124
This George Lucas-produced labour of love about the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s all-black fighter pilot regiment, has superb technical effects but never manages to fully take flight.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Anthony Hemingway and executively produced by George Lucas, it has taken 23 years and $58 million from Lucas’ own pocket to get World War II flyboy saga, Red Tails made. Set in Italy in 1944 and based on the real life story of the Tuskegee Airmen, this passion project places emphasis on a triumvirate of African-American pilots from different walks of life - the fearless maverick, Lightning (David Oyelowo), the impertinent juvenile, Junior (Tristan Wilds) and the squad’s captain with a drinking problem, Easy (Nate Parker) – as they overcome racial discrimination to become one of the most distinguished squadrons of World War II.
Cuba Gooding Junior and Terrence Howard are also onboard as the supportive Major Emanuelle Stance and Colonel A.J. Bullard and there’s a token love story subplot between Lightning and local beauty, Sofia (Daniela Ruah).
On a technical note alone, Red Tails is faultless with its spectacular and electric battle scenes that are nicely punctuated with impressive pyrotechnics. The film’s POV shots during the dogfights also lend a palpable quality to the flashy CGI action sequences. On top of that, the failsafe factor of its historical back story supplies the film with inspirational value, providing a lingering source of interest for the audience whenever the plot becomes needlessly saccharine.
Despite its good intentions, Red Tails falls flat on its face as soon as it returns to the ground after a notable aerial opening sequence. The wooden script is difficult to endure, ridden with clichéd phrases and emphasised by its one-dimensional characters. This could have been slightly masked by more passionate performances but unfortunately - bar Terrence Howard, who provides a strong supporting backbone – the film overflows with limp and soulless acting.
Red Tails has great historic value, but this is often spoiled by a failed attempt at patriotic sentimentality – a stumbling block for many films in this genre - and as a result, it feels tedious, failing to deliver its promised lasting impression.
Despite its flawed script and character development, Red Tails, with its inspiring back story and spectacular visual effects, is a summer blockbuster still worthy of a watch.