“Red Tails” is based on the World War II segregated combat pilot program known as the Tuskegee Experiment. In the 1940’s the United States military would not allow Black men to train as pilots. However, due to the high level of casualties that were taking place during the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a decision that was not only unheard of, but also defining and historical. The all-Black squadron was based in Tuskegee, Alabama and whose initial primary mission was to eliminate ground targets such as trains, cars, boats, bases, and more, but became significant in helping American soldiers properly infiltrate Germany through tactical air bombing procedures. It was only when these men were asked to begin escort services for American bombers that the crew, through their unrelenting bravery, began to earn its full respect.
If you’re looking for a feel good movie full of action, great special effects, a little inspiration and a lot to learn about history, then “Red Tails” is your movie. The film moved along at quite a steady pace; fast enough that it will make you feel as though you’ve spent the last two weeks on the base with the squadron, and grow into a full combat fighter right along with them. The story line was good without being too over-the-top, and the special effects were effective enough to make you believe hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to orchestrate shooting up planes was really filmed over Germany, rather than the actual hydraulic device simulator that was used inside of a Hollywood studio.
Now here’s the downside (yes, there has to be a downside). I wasn’t impressed with the acting in the movie, especially in the beginning, which for me was surprising. Even though this was a fairly young cast, nonetheless it’s an experienced one. At times, it felt like the actors were reading their lines directly from a script in hand, rather than delivering them with real emotional believability. Out of all the casted “pilots” highlighted in the film, I believe Nate Parker was the oldest…and he’s only in his early 30s! The thing is, there just weren’t that many memorable scenes that left me saying, “wow.” And even now, there isn’t a scene yet that I can think of that will remain burned into my memory, ready for me to retell in future conversations about the film. For me, if there isn’t anything really to remember from seeing a film, then it clearly didn’t leave much of an impact.
As far as individual actors, Terrence Howard produced what can only be said as the usual Terrance Howard delivery. No big surprises. And get this, he didn’t even cry! But I suppose he was able to bring more than a few scenes of believable emotion to his character, while providing a level of arrogance and strength that was just what the role called for. Personally, I would have liked to see Terrance and Cuba Gooding Jr.’s roles reversed. I really felt that Cuba would have done a better job as the Captain, making the plea for the opportunity to give the pilots more assignments; and Terrance would have been great working with the cast on the base and giving orders. But Cuba Gooding, Jr. was, to say the least, typical Cuba. He was exactly what you would expect from him and the same level of acting he brings to just about every film he’s in.
The remainder of the cause fell a little flat and almost one-dimensional. So it almost feels like you know just enough, but you don’t really know them at all. Although, Nate Parker as the character, “Easy” did a good job, even though I think he has a tendency to be a little monotone, which after a while can become a little mundane to listen to, but it worked for his character. If you’ve never seen him in another movie, this role was the perfect one to introduce him as an actor to you. One thing that I wish the film would have done is delved a little more into the fact that, as an alcoholic–and one who, in the movie, drinks before and after flights–is how it truly effected his role as the squad leader. And maybe this was a misdirection on the directors part, but it would have been nice to actually see him drunk as well! I mean, it only makes sense since he was an alcoholic, right? A good drunk argument with David Oyelowo’s character “Lightning” would have been perfect. But again, that’s just my opinion.
And speaking of David Oyelowo, I’m going to say that he was the strongest character in the movie. He showed a wide array of personality and characteristics that allowed us to really get into his character and understand a little bit about who he is and what he is about. And the side-story with Daniela Ruah’s–who played his love interest–character “Sophia,” was romantic and storied enough to hold its own attention amongst the shooting, flying and racial barriers surrounding the formal plot of the film. I can’t find too much of anything wrong with the role that he played; the acting was believable, emotional, and I think he did an amazing job.
Tristan Wilds took me a little while to get into. The first half of the movie for him was really dry and it almost felt like he was reading from the script…well, okay…his entire part in the movie felt that way. Sorry Tristan.
And Ne-yo…ummm…wow. That was actually all I could say to myself the first scene he actually opened his mouth and spoke. So moving on, Elijah Kelly and Marcus Paulk I felt held their characters in a respectable safe acting zone. Both were able to bring the emotion necessary when the moment called for it, and by adding a comedic element to their roles made them a little more enjoyable to watch.
I’m going to give the movie 3 out of 5 clapper boards. I wouldn’t pay another $16 to go watch it in the theaters. However, I would buy the DVD, but would probably only watch it a few more times in the company of someone who hasn’t seen it. I otherwise doubt I’d be picking it up to watch on my own leisure time. I think if you took this movie and handed it to a Will Smith, Ron Howard, Jerry Bruckheimer, Stephen Spielberg, or even F. Gary Gray to direct, this would have been a completely different film leaving viewers with an appreciated, but still much different after-glow.[youtube_lightbox source="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpA6TC0T_Lw;feature=player_embedded" image="http://suavv.com/wp-content/uploads/redtails-cropped-proto-filmcritic_reviews___entry_default-thumb-560xauto-42222.jpg" title="RED TAILS TRAILER" width="560" height="349" align="left"]