Film review | Red Tails – George Lucas’s cherished WW2 fighter pilot movie goes down in flames

Red Tails - David Oyelowo as Joe 'Lightning' Little

The stirring World War Two story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American pilots who overcame racism to become the US air force’s first black aviators, is ill served by Red Tails, a desperately corny action movie from producer George Lucas.

Putting the Tuskegee story on screen has been a long-cherished project for Lucas and even though he’s hired someone else (Anthony Hemingway) to do the actual directing, his own touch is everywhere apparent, from the dashing Boys’ Own heroics in the air to the painfully clunky dialogue on the ground.

As you’d expect, the film’s characters are made from the finest cardboard. Terrence Howard is the resolute colonel battling the top brass in Washington to find a worthy combat role for the all-black 332nd Fighter Group. Cuba Gooding Jr, pipe staunchly clenched between his teeth, is the inspirational commanding officer at the air base in Italy from which the film’s heroes fly their sorties. And, among the pilots, David Oyelowo is the cocky daredevil; Nate Parker the careworn flight leader; and Tristan Wilds the young tyro.

The actors do their best but most of the lines they have to deliver are toe-curlingly bad. Things get better when the planes are in the air, but the film’s aerial dogfights are so blatantly computer-generated that the action fails to thrill.

On general release from Wednesday 6th June.

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