It has been too long since a good war flick has been released. Red Tails is one of the first all-black action pictures based on the true events of the Tuskegee Airmen. For those who have been living under a rock, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first all-African-American aerial combat unit during WWII. Red Tails was directed by Anthony Hemmingway who made his big screen debut, but he has directed the HBO series, The Wire. The movie was produced by the same man that wrote the story of the Indiana Jones movies, and the creator of the epic sci-fi empire, Star Wars. George Lucas started working on this project 23 years ago and decided to self-finance the $53 million dollar movie himself. In an interview with Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” Lucas explained that he could not find a major studio to fund this movie, due to its lack of marketability. Lucas also told Stewart that Red Tails “is as close as you’ll ever get to Episode VII.”
This action-adventure film stars Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire), Terrance Howard (Iron Man), David Owelowo (The Help), and Nate Parker (The Great Debaters). The film takes place in Italy during 1944. The African American squadron was the 332d Air Force fighter group, stationed at the Ramitelli Airfield. The movie tells the story of a squad lead by Marty “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker) and his overly confident wing mate Joe “Lightning” Little (David Owelowo). Terrence Howard’s character, Col. A.J. Bullard, plays the political role in trying to get the Pentagon to fund his men, and give them a chance to fly more important missions such as a bomber escort mission, instead of small, noncombat missions. Col. Bullard endured racial discrimination from his superiors in Washington, and wanted to show them that his men were able to achieve their mission even though they are African American. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a warm, pipe-smoking major, who wants nothing short of success from his battalion.
The action in this movie was a little cartoonish and the dialogue was corny. However, the dog fights were exhilarating, and I couldn’t help but see Lucas’ influence from his X-wing Star fighters taking down the Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Red Tails has great intentions and addresses the racial prejudice these men unfortunately had to deal with. This movie is obviously intended to appeal to youngsters, and I think it is great that Lucas wanted to show kids how heroic and truly patriotic these young men were. I was pretty disappointed in this film’s lack of the war-time realistic feel that made films like Saving Private Ryan so great. When the planes were not in the sky the movie was a little difficult to get into, but I think this is a great film to see for those who are not very familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen. Just this week, George Lucas told NY Times that he is done making blockbuster films, and will focus on smaller, more personal productions; so Red Tails could be your last chance to see Lucas’ work in your local theatre.
by Dan Pritchett