Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Video review: "Red Tails"
World War II movies are something I just can't get enough of, and well-done films that focus on the war in the air are few and far between. Aviation films made during and in the years after the war tended to rely on stock footage for the combat scenes, with results that felt constrained by their eras.
Strange that now that Hollywood has all sorts of computer-generated tricks up their sleeves, they haven't tried very often to go back and tell some of these stories with more engaging fighting scenes. "Red Tails" attempts exactly that.
This movie, produced by George Lucas and with CGI provided by his legendary Lucasfilm special effects studio, contains some of the best air combat scenes ever captured on film. Imagine the best video game every made, and "Red Tails" puts you in the cockpit as American pilots engage in dogfights and bombing runs.
It's pulse-pounding, engaging stuff.
Alas, the characters and storyline have all the depth of a video game, too. Ostensibly the tale of the all-black pilots from the Tuskegee training program, "Red Tails" in actuality is an amalgamation of seemingly every cliché ever contained in a war movie.
The troubled squadron leader with a drinking problem? Check. The bed-hopping lothario who thinks he's fallen for The One? Check. The wild hot dog ace who suddenly loses his nerve? The racist white general trying to keep the African-American heroes from earning their glory? Check, check and check.
It's too bad that anytime the movie isn't in the air, the audience will want to check out.
Say what you will about Lucas' wobbly instincts as a filmmaker, but the man knows how to load up a video release with goodies. The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of "Red Tails" is stuffed with all sorts of extras, including "Double Victory," a documentary on the actual Tuskegee Airmen.
There are also featurettes on director Anthony Hemingway, composer Terence Blanchard, the entire cast and Lucas himself. Other features focus on the creation of those amazing air combat scenes.
Movie: 2.5 stars out of four