Directed By: Anthony Hemingway
Starring: Terrance Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Nate Parker
History remembers the Tuskegee Airmen but George Lucas wants us to know about the Red Tails.
During World War II the United States government decided to let African-American pilots fly fighter missions on a very limited basis. But somewhere along the way they overcame racism and ill-conceived notions about their intelligence and became a formidable force in the fight against the Nazis. Unfortunately the producer (one Mr. George Lucas) and director didn’t bother to tell the badass story of these brave men but instead chose to focus on tired old movie tropes and underdeveloped characters. They really missed the point.
Capt. Marty “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker) is a restrained, almost repressed pilot who has a drinking problem while Joe “Lightning” Little (David Oyelowo) is a talented but difficult flyer. The new kid Ray “Junior” Gannon (Tristan Wilds) comes on right as the U.S. military is finally ready to let the “Red Tails” fly escort missions for U.S. bomber groups. The casting is pretty good but none of this really matters as the character development is none existent. It seems that labels like “alcoholic”, “doesn’t follow orders” or “new guy” is all that we are told about these characters. And even those labels aren’t adhered to as the movie progresses. We never see Easy drunk. All we get is a couple scenes of him taking a drink and Lightning lecturing him about his “problem.” There is also a love story of sorts that feels really forced into the script but it ultimately doesn’t matter because the character involved has “flying dead” stamped on him since the beginning. Once again, no development.
The best casting and acting in the movie is Gerald McRaney as Lieutenant General Lutz; the man who finally gives the Red Tails there shot at real combat as well as shiny new planes. But the two biggest names in the movie (Terrance Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr.) are merely in supporting roles and are greatly under used.
The thing to remember here is that this film takes place in 1944, America was a very different place and race relations were terrible. Yes there are a few scenes depicting racism and the n-word does pop up once but for the most part it seems that this point is glossed over and great pains are taken to show white pilots overcoming their natural tendencies. I’m not saying I want to see a movie where the n-word is used constantly but a little more realism to the timeframe would go a long way to help this movie.
It’s not all bad though. The dogfight scenes are pretty spectacular and on more than one occasion I found myself cheering out loud. I really wanted to like Red Tails both as a good war movie and as a story of overcoming prejudice but it failed to deliver. From all reports Red Tails was caught in development hell (much like this article) and suffered because of it. Lucas tried to put a little Raiders of the Lost Ark into this movie but really all we got was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. If you want to see a really good movie based on this same subject matter watch The Tuskegee Airmen which happens to also star Cuba Gooding, Jr.
The Video and Audio
The film is presented in widescreen but there is no ratio aspect given. Neither was any information given on the audio specs.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
I received a promotional copy of the movie that did not have any of the special features.
Overall (Not an Average) 4/10
The Movie 4/10
Overall (Not an Average) 4/10