MFR Rating: ★ ★
A war film with a social conscience such as Red Tails is always going to scream “award-worthy”, it’s just astonishing how such a remarkable story could be made to feel so insipid. Produced by George Lucas, unfortunately Red Tails has the worst of his fingerprints all over it, littered with unnecessarily prolonged dialogue and lacking any incision.
The acting is fine, the cast are great (fans of The Wire will enjoy spotting several members of Baltimore’s finest), it just turns a really fascinating story into something utterly turgid. It’s not even sickly sentimental, just rather bland. Red Tails is the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, an “experiment” of African American pilots trained and posted to Italy during the Second World War. The problem is, there’s just too many of them. And by that I mean the film lacks focus, it picks up too many characters and fails to develop any of them while at the same time failing to give us any sense of the union that must have existed among these pilots. It provides little insight into where they came from or how they managed to battle such prejudice to become such magnificent pilots they’re shown to be.
The film does however have some rather excellent air sequences which are every bit as thrilling to look at as they should be. In fact, whenever they’re in the air the film does a good job of providing a genuine sense of danger and adrenaline, it’s just so languid whenever the.characters come back down to earth. Oh, and the less said about the “romance” the better – one of the most unconvincing and forced love stories I have seen in some time. You can just see the studio executives ticking a box.
Perhaps this story would have benefited from a Band of Brothers-esque TV series to try and give the ensemble a little flesh, but as the film’s writing is just so far from good enough somehow I doubt that could have saved it. What could have been a great story – hopelessly let down.
Red Tails is out on 6th June in the UK. Running time 125 mins. Certificate 12a (UK).
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Review by David Rank