Lucas aims high, ultimately misfires

3 stars

Racial bigotry in the United States Armed Forces is overcome when an elite squadron of African-American fighter pilots proves fit for combat in the George Lucas film, “Red Tails.”  This World War II aerial combat flick directed by Anthony Hemingway delivers an inspiring story about the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group, stationed at Ramitelli Airfield in Italy.The film follows the lives of the pilots as well as their commanders Col. A.J. Bullard, played Terrence Howard, and Maj. Emmanuelle Stance, played by Cuba Gooding Jr.  Nate Parker portrays the alcoholic squad leader Marty “Easy” Julian.  Easy’s best friend and wingman Joe “Lightning” Little is played by David Oyelowo.Reports of African Americans being inferior and unfit for combat keep the fighter group out of aerial combat zones while the commanders struggle with the brass to earn the chance to fight. Easy leads his squadron on the first air-to-air combat mission providing air support for ground infantry all the way to its last mission of the war escorting bomber groups to Berlin.  Crazy and courageous, Lightning acts as the primary source of inspiration for the squadron with his daredevil stunts and his ability to bring down the enemy.

Romance is in the air surrounding Lightning and an Italian woman named Sofia, played by Daniela Ruah, who blows him a kiss from a rooftop as he flies by her home on his return to the airbase.  Their relationship begins without either one knowing the other’s tongue and ends with them being well-versed.

Further inspection of Lightning’s life shows conflict brewing between him and his wingman as Easy continues giving orders while drinking and flying and Lightning disobeys his orders to show off for the rest of the squadron.

“My favorite part was anytime Lightning was flying,” said movie watcher Terry Wheeler.  “It was really awesome to watch.”

Tristan Wilds plays the part of Ray “Junior” Gannon, who is a pilot that suffers partial blindness as a result of injuries from their first mission.  This loss of sight later forces him to abandon his disabled P-51 Mustang.

David “Deke” Watkins is a religious pilot that prays to a “Black Jesus” card for the lives of his companions and is portrayed by Marcus T. Paulk.  An injured Deke is escorted by Easy back to the airbase where he survives an intense crash landing.

Explosive, high-speed, aerial visual effects dazzle the eyes of the audience, yet the film leaves something to be desired.

“The special effects were great, but it would have been better in 3-D,” said spectator Jorge Ruiz.  “And some of the lines were cheesy, but it was an alright movie.”

The film was produced in classic George Lucas style, blending an old-fashion feel with visually stunning action scenes and inspirational undertones.  “Red Tails” is likely to stand in the shadow of mainstream monster bash “Underworld: Awakening” for the duration of the week.