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Movie Review: Red Tails

George Lucas' self-financed salute to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II

The cast of

The Tuskegee Airmen in Red Tails. — Photo Courtesy 20th Century Fox

There is precious little in the way of cultural context. We learn nothing about the origins of the Tuskegee Airmen. We can only infer the challenges they face; at best we get passing references to news reports and clipped scenes during which Bullard attempts to prove their worth to his commanding officers. Instead, the story wanders into myriad subplots: one pilot romances a local village girl, another battles alcoholism. There’s even a prison escape (don’t ask).

Red Tails really takes flight during its aerial battle sequences, and some of the dogfights are spectacular. That the movie is a passion project from producer George Lucas — whose Star Wars movies similarly featured astounding action sequences and stultifying plot and dialogue — should surprise no one.

There are a few nice performances and moments here, but the tale of the Tuskegee Airmen deserves a better movie than this. I wish Red Tails had focused less on special effects, action and aimless subplots, and more on the story of a group of men who not only believed that the idea of what their country — and the world — could be was better than the reality. They put their lives on the line for it.

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