by Rick Grant
Considering the subject matter and George Lucas’ involvement as executive producer, (he financed the movie) my expectations were high for this homage to the Tuskegee Airman. Ah yes, the final cut had many flaws, which, for me, was very disappointing. Indeed, the survivors of the much celebrated all-black squadron during WWII deserved a better movie to represent them.
In fact, there was a much better TV movie back in 1995 produced by PBS, titled The Tuskegee Airmen. It starred Laurence Fishburne, and coincidently, Cuba Gooding Jr. The PBS TV movie was directed by Robert Markowitz from a masterfully crafted teleplay by Paris Qualles’ The cast included respected actors Andre Braugher and Courtney B. Vance.
In contrast, Red Tails, directed by Anthony Hemmingway, was marred by wooden acting by the young inexperienced main airmen ensemble; uneven pacing by the director; and cheesy special effects. When they shot the actors inside their cockpits, it looked static, like they were sitting in a mock-up. The actors never fully developed their characters. Their delivery was artificial, like they were just saying lines, instead of incorporating the lines as part of their character–drama school 101.
Of course, Terrance Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. almost overcame the film’s flaws by their stellar acting. Alas, it wasn’t enough to offset the flying ensemble’s incompetence. Their lines were modernized, like today’s blacks talk, not like the upscale college educated blacks who joined the Tuskegee squadron in 1944.
Unfortunately, this movie will represent the Tuskegee Airmen for a long time into the future until someone makes a better film. Still, although the survivors deserve better, at least their accomplishments are recognized in this film, which is critic proof.
At the time, the Tuskegee Airmen had to overcome extreme prejudice and the racist ideas of the time that kept blacks from serving in combat. Not only did they do their jobs with the highest flying skill, but they saved countless white B-17 pilots lives. In fact, the white bomber pilots celebrated the black fighter pilots by inviting them to their clubs and bars.
When the Tuskegee Airmen returned from the war, they were faced with the deeply ingrained prejudice that continued until the 1960s when the Civil Right Movement started. However, all the Tuskegee Airmen went on to distinguished careers in aerospace engineering, business, and other professional careers.
Red Tails Movie Review
by Rick Grant