Film Review: World War II-Era Tuskegee Airmen Fly in ‘Red Tails’

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CHICAGO – The courage of the Tuskegee Airmen cannot be denied. The all African American World War II fighter pilot squadron not only braved battle, but also the virulent prejudice of the 1940s. The new film “Red Tails” chronicles the circumstance of that squadron, with a sappy and overlong treatment. Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

What is amazing, and almost funny, is that the film is almost as clichéd as the worst of the World War II and post-war star spangled, fighting men movie. All the pilots have wistful nicknames and stories that might eventually lead to doom, which is not too far from the old “kid from Brooklyn” that was so beloved in the old films, only to meet his demise on the battlefield. And in trying to cover everything, the debate of the black airman and his adventures, the film is stretched to a length that screams for the edit knife. On the plus side, the Tuskegee Airmen deserve this cinematic honor, and the special effects of air battle are top notch.

The film wisely begins in the midst of the war, near the end in 1944. The Tuskegee “experiment” (as the Army Air Corp calls it) has mostly flown reconnaissance and light duty missions. Hungry for battle, they are represented at the Pentagon by the “Old Man,” Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard). He wants to prove to the Army Air Corp that his men can handle any mission. They are finally approved for bomber escort detail by Major General Luntz (Gerald McRaney), over the objections of Southerner Col. Mortamus (Bryan Cranston).

This mission makes the action-oriented squadron ecstatic. There is Marty, nicknamed “Easy” (Nate Parker), “Ray Gun” (Tristan Wilds), “Joker” (Elijah Kelley), “Winky” (Leslie Odom Jr.), “Lightning” (David Oyelowo), “Smoky” (Ne-Yo) and “Sticks” (Method Man). They are led in Italy by Major Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a stoic, pipe smoking commander straight out of the newsreels. They live together, fight their demons and even love in the war-torn Europe, and eventually prove their worth to a nation that will still have prejudice when they come home.

“Red Tails” opens everywhere on January 20th. Featuring Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Gerald McRaney, Byran Cranston, Nate Parker, Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley and Method Man. Screenplay by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder, directed by Anthony Hemingway. Rated “PG-13”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Red Tails”

David Oyelowo (Joe ‘Lightning’ Little) in ‘Red Tails’
David Oyelowo (Joe ‘Lightning’ Little) in ‘Red Tails’
Photo credit: LucasFilm Ltd.

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Red Tails”

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