dir Anthony Hemingway; with Cuba Gooding Jr, David Oyelowo 12/US ***
An inspiring true story from American military history provides plenty of drama and adventure for this engaging film, even if the over-earnest approach makes it seem a bit silly at times. It centres on the Tuskegee airmen, black pilots who had to fight for equality in the segregated forces during WWII. It's fairly heavily fictionalised, with subplots that range from romantic involvement with the Italian locals, capture and escape from the Nazis and battling with the top brass in the USA for the right to fight alongside white pilots. Sure, all of these things are based on real events, but the script turns them into a bit of melodrama to spice up a central story that certainly doesn't need any spicing up. And even if the film suffers from producer George Lucas' trademark blanding-down (as seen in Star Wars I to III), it's still a rather thrilling story, with a terrific cast and several eye-catching aerial battles that keep us on the edge of our seats. It also feels like it's been edited down from a much longer film, as scenes are chopped abruptly, which makes us wonder if it might have been better as a TV series.
In the days before I flew out here from London, there were some nice surprises for critics, including two blockbusters that looked rather annoying but turned out to be hugely entertaining: the big Martian adventure John Carter and the hilarious film adaptation of the 80s TV series 21 Jump Street. Foreign offerings were the brilliantly elusive Canadian drama Cafe de Flore, the insanely violent and thoroughly enjoyable Indonesian thriller The Raid and the Hugely emotional Belgian coming-of-age drama North Sea Texas. And American indies included the colourful L.A. voguing drama Leave It on the Floor and the terrific doc Corman's World, a lively look at the king of the B-movies.