Executive produced by George Lucas, Red Tails is a rousing, old fashioned Second World War War movie in which heroic American flying aces tussle with gimlet-eyed Nazi pilots.
The difference here is that the flying aces are African Amercians. They must overcome not only their German antagonists but the often overt racism of their own military top brass.
Lucas has spent many years trying to bring the story of the "Tuskegee Airmen" to screen. He has complained bitterly about the resistance he encountered in Hollywood towards a project in which none of the main characters are white.
The film that has finally been made is more a boys' own action epic than a polemical drama about racial discrimination. At times, it even rekindles memories of William Wyler or Frank Capra movies of the 1940s.
The aerial scenes are spectacular – planes swooping down to bomb train or performing death defying loops as wounded, bloodied pilots trying to limp back home. One flier (David Oyelowo) is brilliant but reckless.
His best friend (Nate Parker) is a secret drinker whose boozing risks compromising his judgment. We see events entirely from the squadron members' point of view.
The storytelling style is naïve in the extreme but the film works well enough as an old fashioned action adventure while casting new light on an episode in wartime history that has been ignored.