Matt Adcock’s film review: Red Tails

“From the last plane, to the last bullet, to the last minute, to the last man, we fight! We fight! We fight!”

Get ready to take to the skies with this ‘inspired by true events’ tale of wartime heroics which is a pet project of George ‘Mr Star Wars’ Lucas.

It’s been a while coming – he mentioned this project back when I interviewed him in 2005 – and he’s even put his hand in his own deep pockets to bring it to the screen.

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Red Tails is the, erm, tale, of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first squadron of black pilots who had to fight more than just Nazis in the Second World War.

These brave and talented airmen risked everything and put themselves in harm’s way, but in order to even earn the right to fly they had to battle institutionalised racism from within the army, all the way up to the top brass.

But the Red Tails – so-called because the tails of their planes were painted red to mark them out in midair – had some mad skills in the air, none more so than hotshot maverick pilot Joe ‘Lightning’ Little (David Oyelowo) whose bravery extended to doing crazy acts of heroism such as taking on a fully-armed Nazi battleship single-handed.

As you might expect from a Lucas project, the special effects are excellent and the aerial dogfights really light up the screen.

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The plot and dialogue are alas less spectacular and serve to remind us of clunky lines delivered in a galaxy far, far away…

The plot sees the Red Tails develop over the course of four decisive air campaigns – from their early babysitting duties through to going all the way to Berlin, where they must go up against the technologically superior German jet fighters.

The cast go about the gung-ho proceedings with gusto, and the squadron is overseen by Major Emanuelle Stance (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who delivers the pipe smoking gravitas.

The pilots are led by Marty ‘Easy’ Julian (Nate Parker) whose weakness for whiskey might be their undoing.

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Also in the lead group are the aforementioned Lightning Little, loveable youngster Junior – or ‘Ray Gun as he’d like to be known – (Tristan Wilds) and Smokey, a bit of light relief provided by rapper Ne-Yo.

Red Tails isn’t a classic of any kind but it is good fun and brings some quality aerial battling thrills that won’t soon be forgotten.

It also serves as a stark reminder of just how recently rampart and hateful racism was openly endorsed by the armed forces.

Worth a look for Top Gun fans.

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