REVIEW: 'Red Tails' pairs fantastic battle scenes with so-so characters

“Red Tails,” the story of World War II’s heroic Tuskegee Airmen fighter pilots, feels and moves like classic war films from decades past. Like those golden aged movies, the characters aren’t very deep and there’s a trite and superficial love story, but boy is this George Lucas-produced film replete with bravado and astounding aerial combat scenes.

The Tuskegee Airmen were 13 African Americans who were trained as pilots to fight for the Allied Forces, but they were heavily discriminated against by the military, and told they lacked the intelligence to man aircraft or fly for their country. “Red Tails” tells the heroic story of these men who fought in the face of bigotry and flew countless missions in Europe which helped bring about Allied victories over Germany.

Where “Red Tails” soars is with the spectacular aerial dogfights. Ben Burtt’s sound design and the incredible photography and special effects create realistic and phenomenal sky battles. Each mission is more intense and suspenseful than the previous. Every time the men take off in their red-tailed Mustangs you’ll be on the edge of your seat.

“Red Tails” boasts fine performances from the ensemble, especially David Oyelowo (“The Help”) as obstinate Joe ‘Lightning’ Little. Terrence Howard also packs some punches as the Colonel who comes face-to-face with the white opposition.

Unfortunately the character development is mediocre. The bonds between the airmen are superficial at best and the love story between Little and the young Italian belle Sophia (Daniela Ruah) is flimsy and unnecessary. But you’ll be hard-pressed not to cheer as the airmen take down both the Nazis and put their bigoted commanding officers in their place.  There’s a huge helping of cheesy dialogue, especially from the cartoonish Nazis, and a few rousing speeches, but in the end it’s all about the battle scenes.

George Lucas claims to be retiring from film making after producing “Red Tails” and if this film is his swan song, he could have gone out on much worse.