Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughts on "Red Tails"

 Its 12:30 pm

  Finally went and saw the George Lucas movie about the Tuskegee Airmen called "Red Tails". I had read all the pretty negative reviews from critics but was encouraged by all the positive feedback from the paying public. And it did a very respectable 20 million opening weekend which is very strong considering January is perhaps the weakest month to see a movie. Studios often drop filler or movies they have no faith in into January. So to see "Red Tails" overcome that was very encouraging.
  There was maybe 30 people in the theater for the 3:35 pm showing,mostly all older folks,they all seemed pretty excited to see the film.
   The movie opens up with the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy in 1944 supporting the US 5th Army under Gen. Mark Clark. Guess that set the table up right there as it completely bypassed what the Airmen had to overcome back in the States. The fact that Eleanor Roosevelt flew with an trainee was of great importance to actually getting the program momentum to keep going was overlooked was disappointing.
  But moving on...the film opens with the four main stars flying in P- 40 Warhawks patrolling over supposedly mopped areas. The planes are beat up with gauges all fouled up and a pilot couldn't be 100% sure that his plane was safe.
   Watching the interaction between the squadron leader Easy and his best friend and fellow pilot,Lightning was a little hard to believe. The men had worked so hard to get into combat,its hard to believe any Airmen would buck orders,all eyes were trained on how well they did their missions.
   *I'm not going to post spoilers here so if my review seems a bit cryptic,you're going to have to see the movie!
 Lightening is portrayed as the hotshot pilot and he is indeed a gifted but his stubborness would have stuck up like a nail and I'm just not sure how long he would have been tolerated. While he is taken to task by Easy,Easy has own demon that he has to deal with.
  Terrance Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr do the best with what they have script- wise. The rest of the cast are okay but there isn't any emotional attachment for these characters,you don't feel you really KNOW them enough to have understood their struggles and while Lucas has said he wanted to make a old fashioned entertainment movie and not a historical statement,he really needed to rethink that stance. There are many war movies that are just action upon action but movies like "Sands Of Iwo Jima","Go For Broke","Steel Helmet" among others show you can combine action with a strong emotional base,that a viewer comes to really care for the Airmen on the screen. This movie fails in that role.
  A couple of other scenes stand out for me....after Howard's character manages to snag a front line mission for his Wing,the Airmen fly in support of a landing. As they tackle a German fighter group and beat them off the troops on the ground,Lightening wants to trail a wounded German plane back to its base and attack it.
  Easy isn't crazy about the idea but agrees and the four main Airmen break off mission to do so...I found this appalling since in the very scene of the film,its shows a bomber stream's escort doing the same damn thing and  costing the American several planes being shot down because the escorts were chasing kills instead of protecting the bombers. By showing the Airmen the same thing,it again weakens them in the eye of the beholder. The Red Tails were a very tight fighter group and in reading and watching interviews with them,I found the aerodrome scene not doing them justice.
   While Lucas didn't use the names of the real pilots for his film,he did manage a homage to perhaps the two most famous Tuskegee Airmen,Wendell Pruitt and the only Airmen to make Ace,Lew Archer. Those two were nicknamed  the Gruesome Twosome and Lucas found a way to fit that into the movie....
The very last scene also smacked of almost straight propaganda...a pure Hollywood cheesy ending when in fact that after the war,the Airmen were not celebrated as true heroes but once again faced bigotry and ignorance. I think this is why Steven Speilberg is a far better director,he respects the truth about what war it "Schindler's List","Saving Private Ryan" and now "War Horse". War is not pretty and when you cover a real event as in the case of "Red Tails",do it right and keep it real.


And welcome aboard Wendy!

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