Red Tails takes awhile to take off
Film lacks substance, depth
Todd Miller | Feature Writer
The first set of movies released this semester featured the historical film “Red Tails.” I use the word “historical,” though, to only describe the movie’s genre, not how well it did.
Interestingly, “Red Tails” is the first film produced by Lucasfilm since 1994 that wasn’t a part of the “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones” franchises.
“Red Tails” is set during World War II and the plot centers on the 332nd Fighter Group, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen. They were the first African-American group of fighter pilots in the, at the time, still segregated military forces of the U.S.
Although the pilots were extremely talented both at flying and aerial combat, they were subject to much discrimination by the rest of the military and weren’t able to participate in the war efforts to the extent they wanted to.
Although the film is meant to feature the entire group of fighters, it mostly focuses on Martin “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker), and his squad; Joe “Lightning” Little (David Oyelowo), Samuel “Joker” George (Elijah Kelley) and Ray “Ray Gun” or “Junior” Gannon (Tristan Wilds).
In the beginning, the group is despondent because it is continuously given “throw away” missions far away from enemy lines and would prefer to “see some real action.” They also deal with rumors that the military wants to close the 332nd’s operations and send them home.
They get the opportunity to prove themselves on a mission where they help soldiers sail to enemy territory. The 322nd performs extremely well, blowing their critics out of the water.
They’re then offered a mission to protect bombing planes. Although the bomber group they’re protecting disregards their presence; the Tuskagee Airmen prove themselves once again by being the first fighter group to make sure all the bombing planes return safely. From then on, the Airmen continue being one of the best fighter groups and genuinely earn the respect of their fellow military men.
One thing I liked about the movie is that it seemed to stick directly to the facts, while still presenting them in an entertaining way. That is, I didn’t feel like I was watching a documentary. The movie was open and honest about what had happened with the group during the war, and didn’t appear, to my eye, to embellish the truth too much.
All the actors in the movie also did a fantastic job. They played their characters extremely well and clearly seemed to enjoy their roles.
Though the movie didn’t feel like a documentary, it doesn’t mean it was the most entertaining thing I’d ever seen. There wasn’t a lot of substance to the conflict of racism in the military at the time. It was nicely done early in the film, but was pretty much resolved before it was halfover.
It also tried to provide a lot of subplots involving the different members of the air group but ended up hurting the story because they tried to squeeze so many into a two-hour feature. Most problems were glossed over or not resolved well because there wasn’t a lot of focus on them. One extreme case is when Ray Gannon was held in a German P.O.W. camp, where he helps a group of other prisoners escape. However, the several months he spent there not shown in the movie at all. The people there seemed to really grow to like Ray, but the audience have no idea why or what kind of relationships he grew there or anything. We just see him going in and coming out. No conflict in his imprisonment at all.
Several of the characters felt interchangeable, too. I got to know three of the characters somewhat well, but several of the pilots felt interchangeable. They had little-to-no character development or focus and were basically faces in a crowd whenever they didn’t have speaking lines. When one nearly dies, I don’t feel much tension because I just don’t know who he is or what he has at stake for breaching death. And I will say that I knew which character was going to die within the first seven minutes of the film. He only confirmed my prediction for the rest of the two hours.
So, overall, “Red Tails” is a decent film to look at, and is inspiring, especially the way the pilots rise above discrimination and become the best fighter group out there. However, the movie is rather shallow and tries to do too much all at once without the time to do it.
It’s worth seeing if you enjoy war or historical films and can better comment on the accuracy or lack thereof.