Producer George Lucas entrusted the film to writer John Ridley and director Anthony Hemingway, both of whom have worked primarily in television. The film is structured very much like movies of the World War II era, of which there were many, so there are times when it feels a bit clichéd. I understand that this choice may have been to fill in a bit of history. During the 40s, there weren’t war films featuring an African American cast, so this fills a gap, but the style also makes the film feel a bit dated.
This was also a problem I had with Saving Private Ryan after the opening sequence. You have a collection of stock characters – in this case the religious soldier, the tortured soldier with a drinking program, the risk-taking womanizer, the solder from a particular geographic region, and so on. Over time, they form common bonds to unite on a particular mission.
I loved seeing actors I recognized from great TV shows like The Wire and Friday Night Lights up on the big screen along with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard, but I wish they had been given better dialogue, less clichéd characters, and a story with better pacing and visual effects. It’s an important story and an inspiring story, but this approach is likely to appeal more to people who already know about it and remember World War II than to engage a new audience that needs to hear about these courageous, extremely skilled men who broke through color barriers.