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History Lesson

The Tuskegee Airmen is another of those high quality docudramas that HBO seems to steadily produce. For this important bit of black history, they were truly able to come up with a stellar cast, led by Laurence Fishburne. He is surrounded by such name black actors as Allen Payne, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Courtney B. Vance, Andre Braugher, Cuba Gooding Jr., Mekhi Phifer, and Vivica Fox.

The first group of black pilots in the US military was trained at Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama in 1941, as an "experiment". There was a belief among some that blacks would prove inept at flying and prove to be a liability in battle. If anything, because of the limited spots for training and the fact they only let in the highest scoring young men for training, the pilots they turned out were very good

This is essentially a war buddy movie as we follow the first round of cadets from their training to battle. The mood is a somewhat distanced sentimentalism, sticking to the facts but clearly there is a point of view at work here. It's not an unreasonable point of view - I'm not sure there's going to be another way to tell this one that includes sticking to the facts. For a somewhat dry subject, this approach is about as effective as you're going to get in this kind of real life adaptation.

Of course, the battles for these Airmen are not just in the air. One particular senator (John Lithgow) is determined to shut down the "experiment" as a failure. White soldiers in other units are not interested in depending upon this black unit. The men generally respond with dignity but not without feeling the pressure as well.

This one is up to the usual strong HBO standards, and while the story is decent, it isn't quite as strong as it could be. The Tuskegee Airmen is kind of a sleeper - worthwhile and educational, but nothing you'll need to go out of your way to see.

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