Red Tails, 2012.
Directed by Anthony Hemingway.
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Ne-Yo, Method Man, Nate Parker, Elijah Kelley, Tristan Wilds, Theo James, David Oyelowo, Michael B. Jordon, Josh Dallas, Daniela Ruah and Bryan Cranston.
The true story of the heroic exploits of the Tuskegee airmen during World War II.
As much as I love film, there have been very few times where I’ve actually really anticipated the opening of a new movie. This year marks the arrival of probably the most anticipated film in the history of me; The Dark Knight Rises. But before the month of July can grace us with its presence, Red Tails managed to spark my interest from the very first time I viewed its trailer last year. Star Wars baby-maker and executive producer George Lucas lends his talents to this rather inspirational story about the Tuskegee airmen, their missions and the adversity they were faced with to earn and succeed in those missions.
Who else to lead a cast of predominantly African-American acting talent than Terrence Howard who to me sometimes looks, from the way he delivers his lines and throws his “coolness” into his parts, like he is vying for the title of ‘the next Denzel Washington’. He plays Colonel A.J. Bullard who heads the Tuskegee airmen program and fights and scraps to get his men a mission worth bragging about. After finding themselves doing nothing but “killing traffic” after a slew of assignments blowing up supply trucks and military trains, they finally receive their chance.
Under Colonel Bullard is Major Stance (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who has appointed Martin “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker) as his squad leader. It’s easy to see from the get-go that Julian has some underlying problems which are revealed early in the film. He also has to deal with a hot-shot, fancy flying ace in the form of Lt. Joe “Lightning” Little as a wingman. Blessed with tons of skill, Little often breaks from the squad and does his own thing ignoring orders. Their first real test comes in the form of providing air cover for their white counterparts attempting to movie into enemy Nazi territory. Showing that they are more than capable of fighting the war like every other airmen, they are continued to have missions thrown their way despite the prejudice and scrutiny that they are constantly subjected to.
The most impressive aspect of this film should really come as no surprise. Yes, it was the special effects. They were clear, crisp and put you right in the action. As far as action adventure jet fighting movie magic goes, I’d put Red Tails among the top. The action comes quick and often and delivers on many levels. The only negative portion about the in-flight parts of the film I felt was the chatter. True, all good fighter pilot films have had creative talk and back-and-forth banter but this one seemed to have too much of it. To me, it felt as though some parts of the movie where there was communication between the pilots were kind of forced. Kind of like director Anthony Hemingway needed to fill in some parts of the movie for time reasons so he included extra lines for the actors to recite.
Moving from the best parts of the movie, the special effects, to the worst part. Overall, it felt like something was missing from the film. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it but it just had a feeling of absence somewhere within the story. I know the plot line is simply following the teachings and happenings of literal history but the film seemed to be missing a sort of “zing” or “pop” to really cause it go over the top. Perhaps it may suffer from the fact that we all already know what happens. At least if you showed up and actually paid attention in history class, you do. But there are plenty of other films which are based off of historical events and books, John B. Holway penned the novel of the same name, that still have that substance that leaves you feeling full as you walk out of the theater.
I was also expecting more from one Bryan Cranston who played Colonel William Mortamus, a Negro pilot-hating man who absolutely refuses to give them their due despite the successful missions that they put together. He was in a couple of scenes but then literally disappeared for the rest of the movie. All in all, I would still recommend this film to anyone, especially if you are history buff. Especially, especially if you are a military history buff. Especially, especially, especially if you are an African-American history buff. I give Red Tails “4 reasons to believe that war knows no color out of 5”.
“When you get mad or upset, you turn Red. When you get sick or jealous, you turn Green. When you turn into a coward, you turn Yellow. And you have the nerve to call us Colored.”