Natalie Stendall film review: Red Tails

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NEW from executive producer and adventure genius, George Lucas (Star Wars, Indiana Jones), comes Red Tails, an action packed film about the first African-American fighter pilot squadron.

Red Tails is The Help meets Top Gun - the rise of African-American rights issues within the US Air Force during World War Two is combined with CGI dogfighting adventure.

Unlike The Help though, Red Tails lacks gut-wrenching emotion and spirit. Scenes dealing with the politics of the rights conflict feel like they should carry more weight than they do. Directed by Anthony Hemmingway, whose credits include hard-hitting television series The Wire and Treme, this comes as something of a surprise.

Red Tails’ script also fails to highlight the complexities of racism, as the negative attitudes of white squadron members are overturned quickly and with relative ease. The opportunity to delve deep into the rights issue is missed and instead Red Tails merely skims the surface of this important topic.

Red Tails’ bid to highlight these serious issues is frustrated by an excess of unsurprising characters.

Although pleasant enough, Red Tails’ characters are hackneyed and formulaic.

Rarely do they demonstrate raw passion or depth of feeling and, instead, plough on through the war with boyish excitement.

The Germans too are stereotypical bad guys, yelling out predictable phrases such as ‘show no mercy’ before flying full speed into battle.

The majority of Red Tails’ characters may be in unconventionally high spirits for a film based on war and civil rights, but what they do bring is a sense of fun.

And it is in this sense of adventure where Red Tails’ strengths lie. Without the wild and often reckless antics of lead character Lightning (David Oyelowo) Red Tails would be a dull affair.

Instead, missions and dogfights are plentiful, offering the audience a good idea of what being a fighter pilot in 1944 might be like. The CGI is convincing and, teamed with incredible sound and pace, makes for solid entertainment. Despite a couple of repetitive scenes - we get to see injured pilots guided to the ground by their unscathed teammates twice - the action is enthralling.

Be warned though, in creating these exhilarating flight scenes, the film makers take liberties with historical fact - something that’s likely to irritate experts and realists. The level of destruction and sheer size of the explosions caused by these small fighter planes is unrealistic and at times, Red Tails endangers its believability.

Red Tails’ adventure spin often seems at odds with its more serious African-American rights angle.

While it fails to pull off a combination of the two that truly works, Red Tails is a war time adventure that delivers both action and thrills. See if for its fantastic fighter pilot missions and spectacular CGI dogfight sequences.

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 125 minutes

Verdict: ✭Three stars✭✭