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Red Tails - Review

Red Tails

Review by Jason Palmer

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

STAR Wars supremo George Lucas has been trying to get Red Tails made for near on 20 years. But while the true-life story of the Tuskegee airmen who challenged bigotry and adversity to play a pivotal role in World War II certainly lends itself to a big screen interpretation the end result is a little underwhelming, especially given the talent involved (both Lucas and Rick McCallum produce the movie).

More soft-focus than grittier war projects like Band Of Brothers and The Pacific, Red Tails offers good, old fashioned storytelling with a distinct television vibe.

As a result, this would have worked a lot better as a two or three-part TV mini-series rather than a cinema adventure, for while the film does hold your attention the small screen attributes of the plot and the character development leave you feeling a little perplexed.

This isn’t to say that Red Tails is a bad film; it’s just a curious project that doesn’t fully realise its potential.

Where Red Tails really succeeds though is in the aerial combat sequences, which are truly superb and feature era-specific aircraft doing all manner of breathtaking stunts.

For these sequences, Red Tails is worth the admission price alone for the way in which they really transport you into the thick of battle.

The cast, too, are all uniformly impressive with Terrence Howard the pick of the bunch as a Colonel fighting two wars, one with the enemy and one with his own country as America struggles to acclimatise with the introduction of Black soldiers into rank.

David Oyelowo and Nate Parker are also very watchable, especially when Oyelowo’s Joe ‘Lightning’ Little tries to court local Italian girl-next-door Sofia (NCIS: LA’s Daniela Ruah) without speaking a word of Italian. Cuba Gooding Jr. also pops up in a reserved supporting cameo.

Red Tails creates very TV friendly situations for their main characters and while there is nothing wrong with that notion, this historical and unfamiliar time in world history would have surely benefited from a more critical and in-depth exploration.

Instead, we get a very clichéd bunch of soldiers whose outcomes are easily predicted.

So, Red Tails is ultimately a TV movie with high production values. It’s a Sunday night family-friendly attempt at drama that certainly has a lot going for it.

With strong performances from an accomplished cast and some breathtaking sky wars, the film is still worth a watch, even though you can’t shift the feeling that this could have been a truly great war epic had they aimed higher.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 125mins
UK Release Date: June 6, 2012