This has been George Lucas’ pet project since I spoke to him at the Attack of the Clones press conference ten years ago, but sadly if this is going to be one of the last movies he’ll ever produce – I wish he hadn’t bothered.
Based on the true story of untested African-American pilots being used by the US Air Force – in the face of extreme prejudice – after being thrown into the Tuskegee airmen training experiment at the end of the Second World War, this drama never really takes off despite some great source material.
Solid performances from Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire), Terrence Howard (Iron Man) and David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) can’t hide a drama that is simply a glorified TV movie (in fact Gooding starred with Laurence Fishburne in a similar HBO movie in the mid-nineties) – complete with some impressive trademark Lucasfilm special effects that look sorely out of place.
Once you throw in amateur actors – like r’n’b/rap stars Ne-Yo and Method Man – among a perfunctory and cliché-ridden script, only the odd emotional moment makes it just about watchable – with the dogfights surprisingly soulless.
With it being on Lucas’ wish list for so long I was expecting it to soar – but it ends up being paint-by-numbers fare that should have stayed grounded.
Which is sad because the story of these brave pilots should have been so much more.
Cast: David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, Ne-Yo, Clifford ‘Method Man’ Smith, Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker, Elijah Kelley
Running Time: 2hrs
Director: Anthony Hemingway