Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: Red Tails

From Executive Producer George Lucas and Director Anthony Hemingway, Red Tails is a labor of love, years in the making.  With a budget of approximately $58 million and Mr. Lucas ponying up approximately another $35 million do distribute the film, you know this is a story that Lucas desperately wanted to tell.

What we get on the screen is a tale that has two focuses, the individual battles that the fighter pilots of Red Squadron fight versus their German ("Jerry") opponents in the sky, and the battles they wage within themselves, against each other, and against the colossus of racism that made the Army Air Corps a very difficult place for these men to live and fight.

I cannot say enough about the aerial combat depicted in this film, ILM nailed it out of the park.  Even without a story I would pay money to simply see these scenes on the big screen.

While I enjoyed the film a great deal, there are some issues with story and dialogue that I feel missed the mark.  Red Tails focused more on the personal story of the pilots then the war itself, but it felt to me like we could have used more of a build up for the main German antagonist, the Ace pilot known to the Red Tails simply as "Pretty Boy."  Pretty Boy's ultimate fate was as satisfying as it should have been with more build up for his character as the villain of the story.

The sub-plot involving Ray "Junior" Gannon being captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp and the story of his escape seemed superfluous to the story and that character's loss and return could have been told in a more efficient way for the overall story.

The sub-plot involving Marty 'Easy' Julian, who dealing with a domineering father with high expectations as well as the stress of being the flight leader fights his own personal battle with alcoholism, gave the character additional depth.  The problem with this sub-plot is that it didn't seem to go anywhere, there is some hint that the alcohol is impairing his judgement, but the issue isn't really brought to the front and feels like they brought it up without a real storytelling payoff for it.

The biggest criticism of the film will likely be for the dialogue.  There are some rather bad lines in the film that made this viewer cringe at times.  The other issue with the dialogue is that there is a good deal of profanity which will be a factor to consider when deciding if you should take your kids to see it.

On the whole Red Tails is a very entertaining film, I particularly enjoyed the performance of Terrance Howard as Colonel A.J. Bullard and David Oyelowo as Joe 'Lightning' Little.  To me this film had the feel of the old WWII propaganda films, if you view the movie in this genre some of the story and dialogue concerns are consistent with this style of film. It is a movie that will play well taping into the patriotic zeal across this country regardless of race.  It is a film that is the embodiment of that memorable line by Martin Luther King Jr., "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."  One thing is for sure, the members of Red Squadron certainly had character in abundance.

See it and enjoy it, and don't forget to watch out for the Jerrys.

For more information and a behind the scenes look at the film, visit the official Red Tails website.

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