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Red Tails – movie review
20th Century Fox
Release date: 6 June 2012
Director: Anthony Hemingway
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo
What's the story?
In WWII Europe, the African-American airmen of the 332nd squadron itch to prove themselves in combat. Before they can fight the Luftwaffe, however, they must first overcome endemic institutionalised racism.
What did we think?
No cliché is too hoary for a Boy's Own escapade that could have been made 50 years ago were it not for its black leads and CGI battle sequences. It's entertaining enough, but you leave feeling its real-life heroes would be better served by a more thoughtful, historically accurate portrait.
When you have as many millions as George Lucas, you can do what you like. It's still a surprise, though, to see the Hollywood titan sink a reported 58 of them into a gung-ho salute to the Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of African-American aviators whose bravery paved the way for a more inclusive, ethnically diverse military.
Given the allegations of racial caricature that dogged Jar Jar Binks' outsized footsteps, it's tempting to see Red Tails as a giant exercise in filmic expiation. To do so, though, would be to downplay the contribution of director Anthony Hemingway, who does a solid job retooling a patriotic period flag-waver for a contemporary audience.
The problems lie more in John Ridley and Aaron McGruder's script, which saddles a talented cast with a hangar's worth of unimaginative stereotypes. All the characters - Nate Parker's troubled leader, David Oyelowo's cocky maverick, Cuba Gooding Jr's pipe-chomping major - have been seen countless times before, defying their attempts to put flesh on their bones.
Small wonder then that the film only really comes to life once things take to the skies. Computer-generated they may well be, but Red Tails' dogfights will still have you on the edge of your seat.
Verdict: Too black and white.