The kind of World War II movie Hollywood wouldn't touch during WWII, this unapologetically adrenalized take on the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen nevertheless indulges every creaky combat-flick trope imaginable. Which isn't to say Red Tails is anything less than invigorating fun in its first half, before the dogfights and breakneck banter of its primarily black cast — including David Oyelowo as a skirt-chasing daredevil, Michael B. Jordan as an eager greenhorn, and Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard as gruffly paternal brass — boil over. The film makes the most of its Lucasfilm imprint (executive producer George Lucas nursed the project for years before funding the production himself), especially in its stellar CGI effects, but by the time a tossed-off POW subplot rolls around, the whole thing collapses under the weight of Saint George's moneybags. There's no arguing that a big-budget treatment of the experiences of the first African-American fighter-pilot squadron isn't worthwhile, and Lucas and prolific TV director Anthony Hemingway nearly pull it off: For starters, Red Tails' nonwhite ensemble is as refreshingly daring for an action blockbuster as The Wire's was for a cop show. Its fuzzy-wuzzy, '40s-style appeals to manliness and patriotism will only bother those who prefer their war movies to convincingly address grit, gore, and irrevocable loss.
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