Saturday, January 21, 2012

Red Tails

Black History Month being just around the corner and all, I was expecting something more akin to Glory. I thought I was going to see a historical representation of the Tuskegee Airmen. You know... their struggle for recognition and respect? Maybe some good character representation? Guess again.

Set against the backdrop of Occupied Italy, we are introduced to the 332 Air Squadron. Thinking that Negro pilots lacked the necessities for front line aerial combat, the brass kept them out of the way and largely out of the papers, flying hand-me-down craft and relegated to menial tasks, like coastal patrol and attacking trains and truck caravans.

Eventually they get their big break: protecting heavy bomber squadrons and do a stellar job, earning the respect of the white pilots and... you get how it goes from there.

Much footage is placed on Aeriel maneuvers and over done explosions. The action kinda goes like this: Vroom-Vroom, boom-boom, Whoooooo!

In between all that Vroom-Boom-Whoooooo! there isn't much else that makes a great movie out of a solid idea.
The characters walk around like cardboard cutouts performing all the cliches you'd expect: the 'Nigger' slur fist fight; the maverick pilot; the guy who drinks too much; the overtly religious guy; racist Germans; romance with a local girl; the CO who smokes a pipe all the time...
It's a shame. There was a lot of talent on that screen depicting a diverse and interestingly believable collection of personalities. All of it wasted.

So what is this? A poorly done historical retelling of a first rate military unit? Or a sidetracked wham-bam-hooey intended to sell popcorn? I'm not sure. I don't think the creators are either.

Just as water and oil don't mix, neither do Top Gun and Glory. Red Tails can't make up it's mind as to just what kind of story it wants to tell, and suffers for it.


Brian said...

Too bad. That's a story that could make a great movie (or two) in the right hands.

The director has episodes of a couple of my favorite shows (Battlestar Galactica and The Wire), but I think this is his first feature film as director. Must be a difficult transition.

Gino said...

i think a standard wam-bam-boom with a Tuskegee unit would be just fine if they left out the 'racial struggle story', or left a merely passing reference to it, and just made a Tuskegee airmen story.

the struggles of combat and the brotherhood of men at arms is compelling enough on its own.

Night Writer said...

I've seen the commercials and wondered if this was a remake of the excellent film, "Tuskegee Airmen" that I included as part of the Fundamentals in Film class that I taught to teen-age boys. (My review and class outline here:

From your take it sounds as if this is not a remake (does anyone here or in Hollywood remember the original film?). Too bad. You referenced "Glory" as well, and in the class discussion guide I tied to the two movies together. You could also do a trifecta for Black History Month of "Glory", "Tuskegee Airmen" and "Brian's Song" (the original) to trace the history of race relations in the U.S.

Bike Bubba said...

You know, given the tenuous nature of the opportunity that the Tuskegee Airmen had, I'm guessing they were called that word a lot, but they never got into a fistfight about it--kinda like Jackie Robinson.

But it's a lot hard to portray a fistfight than it is to portray silently enduring this.....we have "actors" that can fight, take off their clothes, cuss....anything but "act" these days, it seems.

Gino said...

NW: i have zero interest in black history month. i just like all history, in general.

bubba: the tuskegee guys were doomed to success for a lot of reasons. who they were and came from would naturally place them in a position to endure the passing slurs i might think, in exchange for the longer outlook.