The true story of the Tuskegee Airmen - World War II's first African American fighter squadron - is celebrated in this thrilling action yarn. Not deemed worthy of a frontline role, the all-black 332nd fighter group had to make do with behind-the-front operations until they got the call to escort American Air Force bomber sorties. Cuba Gooding Jr and Terrence Howard play the top brass in a boys' own adventure that sees the flyboys overcome racial prejudice within their own forces as well as the highly-experienced Luftwaffe.
Cuba Gooding Jr
George 'Star Wars' Lucas's pet project relating the tale of the black Tuskegee Airman overcoming bigotry at home and German pilots abroad proves to be more successful in the air than on the ground.
The Tuskegees were an experimental fighter squadron formed from black airmen but consigned to menial patrolling duties over Italy in 1944 flying dilapidated planes far from the thick of the fighting.
However, when USAF heavy bomber losses become unsustainable the little-regarded Afro-American pilots are called into the fray...and distinguish themselves even to the disbelieving white airmen whose bacon they're saving.
Feature debutant Anthony Hemingway may direct but George Lucas is the driving force behind a story that ticks all the liberal Hollywood boxes while giving his SFX supremos at Industrial Light & Magic the chance to flex their digital muscles during the chocks-away aerial scenes.
And it is here where Red Tails truly impresses - from waves of gleaming Flying Fortresses traversing the heavens like a massive silver grid to nippy P51 fighters shrieking into dogfights with snarling German Messerschmitts.
On terra firma, things are a little more mundane. The plight of the Tuskegee fliers is seen formulaically through the eyes of a small group of airmen: the bottle-hitting squadron leader, the gung-ho maverick and the enthusiastic novice.
Cuba Gooding Jr - whose career appears to be airborne again - wanders around smoking a pipe, there's racist unpleasantness to be endured from redneck fellow fliers as well as the Pentagon and - in the air - an Aryan flying ace with a scar and a Nazi view of negro pilots. He buys it.
Ultimately, Lucas ramps up the success of the Tuskegees a tad too much - it becomes a squadron of black Biggles' laconically shoooting down Luftwaffe jet fighters - but it's definitely a story worth telling.