Watched Jan 23, 2012
Jeff Parker’s review:
At the beginning of the George Lucas produced Red Tails, an on screen title appears telling you this film is based on true events, and it's a good thing too, since Red Tails is so far removed from reality that you'd never come to such a conclusion otherwise. The locations look fake. The acting seems forced. And the love-story subplot is completely implausible. In fact, the only semi-believable part of the film is its CGI. What’s even worse, despite zero attempt at capturing the actual historical context of the Tuskegee training group, an underestimated battalion of black fighter pilots during WWII, the film still pretends to deal with issues contemporary to its setting, like racism, heroism and Nazism. If you’ve been following along so far, no surprise that Red Tails depiction of race is troublesome. While it’d be unfair to cry racism, since the depiction of African Americans is hardly negative, it certainly seems to strip the Tuskegee Airmen of any real cultural heritage and in the process belittles their deserved historical legacy.
This failed history lesson would be forgivable – or at least bearable – if Red Tails was entertaining and able to provide a protagonist we could identify with, care about and root for. Instead, we’re given a bunch of caricatures with zero personality. In fact, Colonel Bullard and Major Stance (Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr., respectively) are completely interchangeable, and the only conceivable reason they bothered to be in the film was what I assume to be a masochistic need to add another poor performance to their recent resumes. The closest the film ever comes to real human emotion is the relationship between hotshot pilot/casanova Joe "Lightning" Little and the aerial leader of the Tuskegee troop Marty “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker). The former’s impetuous flying puts himself and others repeatedly at risk, while Easy struggles with his own alcoholism in a subplot that is not only moralizing, but poorly handled and, subsequently, ludicrous. Of course, there is nothing funny about Red Tails – unless you’re the type to guffaw at clichés –since the film is devoid of any sense of humour. What’s more, this is clearly not a choice to play a serious subject straight – they’re clearly trying here – but rather an extension of the films larger failure to connect on any emotional level whatsoever.
Despite these flaws, the film did provide the technical spectacle one should expect from LucasFilms. Though this does not make up for Red Tails attempt to reproduce history like a comic book that is devoid of both charm and adventure. George Lucas is said to have been trying to get this film made for over twenty years and had difficulty finding funding because of Hollywood’s apparent disinterest in producing films with an all-black cast. As such, Lucas put the cash up himself. Well, George, if this is your idea of a passion project, your career is just about as uninspired as the hackneyed speeches that abound Red Tails.