This George Lucas production is the kind of war movie that just doesn’t get made anymore. It harkens back to a bygone era of adventure war movies long lost amongst all the hard-hitting war dramas of recent years (American Sniper and the like).
Red Tails tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a squadron of African American fighter pilots, and the hardships they faced during the Second World War. Constantly sidelined by the powers that be (including Bryan Cranston’s Colonel William Mortamus), our team (a stellar line-up, including Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Michael B. Jordan and Andre Royo) have to get noticed the hard way: by shooting the hell outta’ as many Nazi’s as possible.
It’s somewhat disconcerting – but not entirely surprising – just how many nameless Germans are blown to smithereens, but it sure does look fabulous. Anthony Hemingway’s (director) camera matches the daredevil moves of David Oyelowo’s superstar pilot Lightning, swopping and diving across the gorgeous European skies. It’s pretty terrific stuff and provides the kind of aerial action that you can only really find in video games nowadays. ILM’s CGI work is equally brilliant, and they work with vibrant colour palettes to create some really stunning sequences. These planes have never looked so good.
If only the surrounding drama were so polished. Lightning’s love for a decidedly unilingual Italian woman aims for sweeping romance, but just ends up coming across as a tad ridiculous. It also seems the film never really recovered from the Lucas-directed reshoots. The final third jumps hither and thither, with little regard for audience coherence.
Lucas also left his unfortunate fingerprints over sections of the dialogue. A couple of sequences featuring a set of white bomber pilots come across as totally ham-fisted, and send unwelcome reminders of the Star Wars prequels’ frankly awful space battle dialogue.
But, I just can’t help but feel warmly about Red Tails. The multitude of issues do put a dampener on things, but the great cast, the terrific visuals and the stirring sense of adventure go a very long way.