Yesterday I caught a matinée showing of Red Tails, starring Terrance Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr and Nate Parker.
Here’s the synopsis:
1944. As the war in Europe continues to take its toll on Allied forces, the Pentagon brass has no recourse but to consider unorthodox options — including the untried and untested African-American pilots of the experimental Tuskegee training program. Just as the young Tuskegee men are on the brink of being shut down and shipped back home, they are given the ultimate chance to show their courage. Against all the odds, with something to prove and everything to lose, these intrepid young airmen take to the skies to fight for their country — and the fate of the free world.
Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock, you’ve seen all the press & conversation that Red Tails has generated. Social media & the blogs have been abuzz with talk about the film. Folks have discussed everything from should Blacks support this film solely because it’s a Black film, to the difficulty of having a Black film made in Hollywood, regardless to who is attached. I’m going to give my thoughts on the film first, and then give my take on the controversy.
This film focuses on the combat aspect of the Tuskegee Airmen. This film has a lot of action scenes, complete with things blowing up & whatnot. When they aren’t in the air, the film highlights several storylines for the various men. And the racial tensions of the day also make their way into the story at various points.
I enjoyed the other story & plot, but there were a few things that made me groan inside. The biggest groan came from the storyline revolving around Joe Little & an Italian woman he fell for. I felt this piece was distracting & didn’t add anything to the film. And it wasn’t developed enough to use it as a selling point to woman as a “romantic” film. I would have left that part out. I also groaned a bit at some of the dialogue. Even with Aaron McGruder’s writing, some of the lines were corny or clearly “Hollywood” & inauthentic. Overall though, I feel the film did a decent job of trying to tell a variety of stories in a short amount of time, which is always hard to do with ensemble casts. I had some questions about some of the men, and a bit more character development would have been nice, but this film simply didn’t have time.
I thought film was shot well, especially the action scenes. And let’s be honest, this film is about the action. There’s a reason why this film focused on the flying & combat portion of the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen. The combat sequences were done using special effects but it didn’t feel over the top & unrealistic.
Overall, I enjoyed Red Tails. It did what it was supposed to do – entertain & also give a bit of history. I was already familiar with the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, so I wasn’t looking for this film to educate me. What I enjoyed most was simply seeing a film that was so full of Black actors, especially young Black actors. And even though I’m not a fan of Terrence Howard or Cuba Gooding, Jr, I enjoyed their performances.
Ok, now that I’ve finished the review part, here’s my thoughts on the controversy aspect. Leading up to this film, I saw lots of comments about the movie & whether or not Blacks should support it. I also saw a lot of reviews decreeing that this movie was the worst thing made since Soul Plane. Going in, I was nervous & hoping that this film was better than it was made out to be.
Is this the worst film ever? Nope. Is it the best film ever? Nope. I think it does a good job of staying in its lane. Red Tails has the unfortunate position of being both a film based in history and a Black film, and both of those factors bring extra scrutiny & IMO unfair criticism. Anytime you have a film with a historical basis, you have the lens of history & historical analysis to view it from. No theatrical film is going to convey all the history of a subject or event – that’s what books, documentaries, etc are for. So Red Tails doesn’t deserve the criticism that it doesn’t tell the entire story of the Tuskegee Airmen – it was never meant to. It’s simply dramatizing one facet of that experience. As for the Black film criticism, it is amazing to me how people complain about the lack of quality Black entertainment (whether film or tv) and yet continue to give their $$$ to inferior products (like Tyler Perry films) or bash the folks who are trying to bring quality products to the masses. I’m not saying drink the Koolaid & think Red Tails is the greatest thing since sliced bread…but at least give it a chance. It may not be your cup of tea. But on the other hand, when there are projects that present Blacks not as drug dealers, hoes, pimps, child abusers, etc we should give those products the benefit of the doubt & err on the side of optimism. To automatically assume the film is garbage does everyone a disservice.
So now that I’ve given my thoughts, what did you think of Red Tails? And where do you stand on the controversy?