Directed by: Anthony Hemmingway
Starring: Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, Gerald McRaney, David Oyelowo
Written by: John Ridley, Aaron McGruder and (book) John B. Holway
Running Time: 125 mins
Release date: 6th June 2012
George Lucas has been wanting to make a film about the Tuskegee Airman for many years, ever since watching dogfights on Pathe newsreels while researching Star Wars. Now his dream has been realised and so a film inspired by these men has been made. Inspired but not so much inspirational.
The Tuskegee Airmen are a group of African-American fighter pilots that were left flying as far away from the enemy as possible, because the US Air Force believe that the black men are cowards and won’t add anything to the war effort. Colonel Bullard pressurises his superiors into letting his men have a chance by escorting bombers on a mission. They do more than prove themselves although on the ground, team leader Marty ‘Easy’ Julian and his best friend, the dangerous Joe ‘Lightning’ Little aren’t seeing eye to eye.
The thing that will make this film appealing is the dog fights. Totally CGI, they are impressive to watch and you get thrown right into the action as bullets fly around the screen as planes dodge and duck them. It is mildly exciting but the trouble is once you have seen one spectacular battle, you’ve seen them all as they soon become a little repetitive.
As for the rest of the film, it’s a huge let-down, mainly because of the clunky script which is so full of cliches from the very wooden characters to the sometime laughable dialogue.
The cast, made up of mainly unknown black actors, are not given enough to do to make their characters appealing. We get stock wartime soldiers: the joker, the religious one, the Southerner, the psycho and the leader with problems.
Big names Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr manage to add a little bit of leverage to the proceedings but even they cannot save a film that has such classic stonkers as “Germans! Let’s get them!” and “Show no mercy!”
The script limps from one episodic scene to another without anything really being joined together and there are some very dubious historical inaccuracies that even the none historian could point out. For example, Lightning’s relationship with an Italian white woman. Pretty sure that if they were seen walking down the street arm in arm, someone would have said something. If the pilots face racism from their superiors and other white pilots, surely a multi-racial relationship in 1942 would definitely be frowned upon.
Throw into the mix moments of sickening patriotic back-slapping and what you have is a film that could have been inspiration and heroic and bringing to the fore-front a story of men that time had forgotten, instead we have a limp wannabe boys own war film that lacks excitement, thrills and any real relevance to what actually happened during World War II. No wonder the film flopped massively at the box office. And unfortunately, I can see the same happening over in the UK.