Red Tails.

2012/01/21

I write to you today, readers, to make a bit of an appeal: See “Red Tails,” the new film  dramatizing the World War II heroics of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Don’t see it because it’s a superb movie; it’s not. It may be the best fighter pilot film in a generation, but as good as “Top Gun” was, it was only ever a clichéd war genre movie, and “Red Tails” doesn’t break much ground in that respect.

But c’mon. We haven’t seen a good fighter pilot film since 1986’s “Top Gun.” You could do a lot worse than this one.

The aerial scenes absolutely soar, with seamless CGI effects that pull the old WWII newsreel footage we’ve seen on The History Channel and the like into living, you-are-there color. Executive producer George Lucas’ Star Wars space battles were inspired by WWII dogfight footage, and his effects house does a better job of staging these than he ever did in his other films.

Unfortunately, the script doesn’t do quite as well on the ground. The actors range from OK to quite good, but they can’t quite elevate the material to match the real-life deeds of the 332nd. And some scenes — many, actually — ended too quickly, with a quick fade or dissolve to the next.

Still, when the airmen take off in their first real mission, I had to struggle not to burst into tears of pride. And, later, even though I knew one of the standard clichés of the genre was coming, I shed a tear or ten anyway.

So yeah. I recommend “Red Tails.” It’s a war movie that tells a story that’s not as heartbreaking as, say, “Saving Private Ryan.”

(Oh, and the entire cast is black. Hope that doesn’t bother you. If so, we’ve got a different bridge to cross.)

 

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