Well, it's better than the Star Wars prequels. Producer George Lucas's long-in-the-works passion project about the Tuskegee Airmen---the group of African-American pilots who fought valiantly in WWII despite much bigotry and discrimination---is so narratively old-fashioned it creaks. You've got your ragtag group of Italy-stationed flying aces with nicknames like Easy (Parker) and Lightning (Oyelowo); the men in power, like Bryan Cranston's wheezy racist and Terrence Howard's saintly go-between, who want to hinder or help our heroes; and broad-strokes character traits (the alcoholic, the womanizer) trotted out as if they contained piercing insights into the human condition. Why, there's even a facially scarred, Darth Vader--esque Nazi for your hissing pleasure.
Despite what they've been given to work with, the cast is strong across the board---not a Jake Lloyd among 'em nor a what-are-midichlorians? aside to make you rethink your attitude toward manslaughter. Though Lucas may have ceded directorial duties to a competent underling (Treme's Anthony Hemingway), the mogul's corner-cutting, do-what-you're-told influence remains. Nowhere is this more evident than in the whiplash-inducing aerial battles, which feature a number of splendid comic book-- style compositions---all those P-51 Mustangs weaving around as if defying gravity---alongside some of the shoddiest-looking digital effects this side of the Syfy Channel's Dinocroc-Supergator franchise. Watching these pedestrian action sequences (the kind at which Lucas Inc. used to excel) only furthers the impression that Papa George should change his middle name to "Well, it's good enough."
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