But there is also more going on here than old school genre homage: it's also a solidly executed example of such an inspirational entertainer, equal parts excitement and heart. In the former category, Hemingway has fun using all the decidedly un-retro 2012 Industrial Light and Magic digital effects toys at his disposal for the many aerial warfare sequences. Given that this is a Lucasfilm Ltd. production, similarities to Star Wars (most specifically, the original) will inevitably be called out, but that's not exactly an insult for action filmmaking. What has long proven to work with X-Wings and TIE Fighters very much translates in thrilling fashion to an Earthbound combat context.
None of characters here are based on any specific real-life figures, and as such they fall for the most part into conventional character types; that said, they are all lent human dimension by the actors. Given the size of the cast (Tristan Wilds, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, Michael B. Jordan, Method Man, Andre Royo, Marcus T. Paulk, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Terrence Howard are among the recognizable faces here), some of men in the unit inevitably get more screen attention than others, but serving as an equalizing force is the unforced and genuine camaraderie between the guys, helped by some amusing banter from Ridley and McGruder's pen. That chemistry is especially evident between the lead buddy pair of Nate Parker and, the certain breakout of the ensemble, David Oyelowo. As, respectively, the hard-drinking captain and reckless daredevil of the group, they forge a believably brotherly tough love rapport and have the effortless gravitas to sell and serve as a compelling emotional anchor for all the action.
But, of course, what makes this film that is (per the opening titles) "inspired by real events" certain to inspire future real events is the enduring legacy of the Airmen. If Red Tails isn't quite the information-heavy lecture of a historical drama some may be expecting, the Tuskegee Airmen's genuine spirit of courage, dedication, and brotherhood is rather fittingly honored and embodied by what is a rousing adventure picture.