Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Red Tails


Rated: PG-13  Scenes of war violence and language
Release Date: January 20, 2012
Runtime: 2 hrs 5 min

Director: Anthony Hemingway
Writers: Jon Ridley, Aaron McGruder
Cast: Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds, Ne-Yo, Bryan Cranston, Gerald McRaney

SYNOPSIS: African American pilots from the Tuskegee training program find themselves in Italy hundreds of miles away from the war front relegated to strafing runs against trains and supply trucks. Under Col. A. J. Bullard's command, these pilots are finally given the opportunity to escort US Air Force heavy bombers into enemy territory.

 Small screen director Anthony Hemingway (The CloserCSi: NY) makes a move to the big screen and the number one director slot with a film involving Tuskegee Airmen still struggling against racial segregation during World War II. Based on a story and screenplay from John Ridley (Justice League TV cartoon, The Wanda Sykes Show) and screenwriting partner Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks TV cartoon), and based on true events, Red Tails takes the Tuskegee Airmen into the heart of battle and the war.

In Italy, hundreds of miles away from the front line of the war with Germany, the African American fighter pilots from the Tuskegee Airmen training program spend their time running strafing runs against German supply trucks and munition trains that the white fighter pilots have passed over as unworthy of their talents. As the US military in the Pentagon, led by Major William Mortamus (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad), try to mothball the entire program, Colonel A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard, Iron Man)  fights his superiors to give his squadron the opportunity to prove themselves on the frontline. Back in Italy, Marty "Easy" Julian (Nate Parker, The Secret Life of Bees) leads his squadron of fighter pilots, including best friend and glory hound Joe 'Lightning' Little (David Oyelowo, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), young gun Ray 'Junior' Gannon (Tristan Wilds, Half Nelson), Samuel 'Joker' George (Elijah Kelley, Dirty Sexy Money), and Andrew 'Smokey' Salem (Ne-Yo, Battle: Los Angeles).

When discussing Air Force pilots in World War II, one of the important components is aerial combat. And using LucasFilm, the aerial dogfights are something of wonder. Hails of bullets, streaking German and American fighter planes, and Flying Fortress bombers, the choreography of the midair chases, disintegrating and exploding planes, falling debris, and more provide the white-knuckle spectacle of battle that serve as the cornerstone of the film. With P-51 Mustangs against the Messerschmitt Bf-109 and the jet propulsion Messerschmitt Me-262, even ace Air Force pilots face overwhelming odds.

The technology that powers the gorgeous aerial battles, also serves to fill in the backdrops and backgrounds throughout the rest of the film. Unfortunately, the glamour in the clouds looks forced on the ground, leading to slightly distracting scenes that would be better served with actual scouted locations. The most real location is the actual base of operations for the squadron, dirty and muddy and tangible.

The supreme challenges that the African American fighter pilots faced on a daily basis, from segregation from the 'whites only' officers' club to the concept that African Americans are inferior soldiers, simply proved that they were superior warriors. Where other fighter pilots escorting the 'heavies', the Flying Fortress bombers, looked to get another downed enemy plane on their resumes, the Tuskegee squadron sacrificed their personal glory and well-being to protect the bombers with little regard for themselves. Protecting the 10-man bombers en route to their bombing targets would save lives and planes.

While the aerial maneuvers are slick, cool and adrenalized, the rest of the story is a little drawn out and spotty. Some scenes are barely there and randomly placed to push the story along. When the 'Red Tails' escort their first bomber convey, the pilots' dialogue tells us that they feel the African American pilot will not be of much support. The audience is smart enough to know enough of the racial issues the pilots faced to not need the concept spelled out to them in forced dialogue. And while most of the chatter between the squadron members is appropriately dramatic or funny, some is stilted and forced.

I cannot express enough the contributions that all of the soldiers of the Second World War sacrificed for their squadron, their service, and their country. Red Tails is visually appealing in the air and interesting enough on the ground, but with some story holes, obvious dialogue, and missed opportunities, it works well for period war popcorn entertainment. If you are looking for deeper drama, this film may leave you grounded.

WORTH: Matinee or DVD

1 comment:

  1. The dogfights are fun but everything else is filled with corniness, lame acting, predictable story arc, and moments where the film feels like a video-game rather than based on a true story. A great story to be told, but told in a very poor way. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.