Published on February 17th, 2012 | by Chris2
Red Tails (2012)
I recall first seeing the trailer for Red Tails back in August or July. Saw Terrence or Cuba up on the screen in uniform and was like "oh, Tuskegee Airmen is going to be on again?" Then it was like "waaaiiiit a minute. This isn't that. And then it hit me. George is *finally* making Red Tails!"
Then we all saw the trailers, and we all cringed, reared back a bit and made that "oooh, I dunno" face. Well let me tell you, those initial reactions weren't warranted.
Red Tails is definitely not anywhere near as bad as I expected it to be. Not the epic oscar-nominee as I had hoped, but its definitely a good movie. All those scenes we cringed at in the trailers, they needed context. Out of context they looked, well, dumb. (out of the blue physically impossible stall/dive) Put back in the context of the whole film they make more sense ("we fight!")...
The story is, of course, about the Tuskegee Airmen. A group of black fighter pilots created during the war as an "experiment" and "curiosity" but who proved everyone wrong by being one of the best squadrons out there. This movie is an excellent tribute to these guys. Is it "Saving Private Ryan?" No. But I don't think it aims to be, either. If it were, it wouldn't be nearly as "approachable". You could (and probably should) show this film in the classroom.
But we are talking about Lucasfilm, so you can't escape the inevitable review of the effects. All in all, I was suitably impressed. From a pure-realism point of view, there are numerous issues with the physics of flight involved in this film. Most obviously that "hit the brakes and they'll fly right by" move in the trailer. There are a lot of "Pearl Harbor" style moments as well. Problem is *real* flight isn't nearly as exciting or fun to watch as all this near-video-game style eye-candy. So there it is. And it *is* a lot of fun to watch.
There are some aspects of the movie that I don't think should have been included, or either explored more and refined. As they stand, they don't do a whole lot for the film. One is the romance between "Lightning" (David Oyelowo) and the Italian Sophia (NCIS LA's Daniela Ruah)... It started out as a nice diversion, and an all-too familiar story for most war movies, but I'm not entirely sure of the relevance of it here. Except to make a point about inter-racial romance. Nothing wrong with that, but it started to feel forced.
The other was "Ray Gun/Junior" (Tristan Wilds) getting shot down and captured, only to wind up in "The Great Escape"... comically in a shot-for-shot rehash of the "into-the-woods" scene from that film. It makes sense I guess at the end, so that the picture doesn't end on a down note (whoops did I spoil it?) but again, felt forced.
Other bits and pieces fall together nicely. The cocky pilot putting himself and others in danger, the alcoholic, although this time getting blamed erroneously for things that weren't the bottle's fault.... It's not just about aircraft.
The message of the film is also unavoidable. That this sort of segregation was just plain wrong. It's always good to have those 20/20 hindsight goggles, but yeah, these guys were just as good, if not better than anyone else in the cockpit. And I only wish I had watched "The Tuskegee Airmen" not so long ago. It's been far too long for me to even remember any of it, so I can't make a good comparison to that. There should be one.
I would like to compare this to another war movie which dealt with the segregation issue, "Miracle at St. Anna." I've caught a lot of flack for that review, and maybe its warranted, maybe not. But in Red Tails, the issue is dealt with *without* that feeling of being preached at and whined to, and having it rammed down your throat. *This* is how it should be shown to everyone, that yes it happened, yeah it was wrong, but you know what? It doesn't really matter *now*, does it? These guys were damn good pilots and soldiers, not to mention fine men, and here's our tribute to them.
What you've got here in a nutshell is a pretty good air combat action picture first and foremost, with an important historical context and worthy message on the side. So I'm going with a 7/10. Not quite as surprisingly good as "War Horse", but a whole lot better than I was expecting. Sure the dialog is a bit, uh, corny at times. Sure the effects are the same way at times. But roll with it, have fun, don't take things quite so seriously, and think about the underlying message while you're at it!
Here's a longer clip I found which might help illustrate what I'm talking about.
Summary: What you've got here in a nutshell is a pretty good air combat action picture first and foremost, with an important historical context and worthy message on the side.