“Red Tails" leaves viewers wanting moreBy Walker Donaldson | 01/22/2012 11:05pm
This weekend in Hollywood, the top two films released featured uncommon stories. First, “Haywire,” an action film, featured a female main character who is battling a corrupt government agency. Second, “Red Tails,” the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, featured an almost entirely African American cast.
The excitement and anticipation in the theater as I waited for “Red Tails” to start was all consuming. There was not an open seat by the start of the movie, and five minutes into the film the crowd was still buzzing.
“Red Tails,” produced by George Lucas, gives a fictional account of the actions of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. It follows a group of 10 pilots in the 332nd Fighter Group, or “Red Tails,” as they fight their way through the final year of the war in Europe, both on and off the battlefield. The film’s two biggest stars, Terrence Howard (“Crash”) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (“Radio”) have only minor roles in the film, and instead, the true stars are a group of young actors that includes R&B singer Ne-Yo.
From the highly decorated Japanese-American units in Italy to the Tuskegee Airmen, the stories of minority groups in World War II are often left out of history books. After almost seventy years, the Tuskegee Airmen’s story is finally gracing the silver screen, and it is a whopping disappointment.
The Tuskegee Airmen were some of the most successful fighter pilots in the European theater. Overcoming great adversity, the pilots shot down over 200 German fighters and began to pave the way for the integration of the armed forces in 1948. Many of the men were also future leaders in the civil rights movement.
“Red Tails” fails as a film because it does not address these heroic actions. Instead of showing the challenges that the courageous men faced and overcame, “Red Tails” goes for the action and adventure gimmicks that were probably featured in half of the other movies screening at the Cobb last weekend.
Filled with cheap dialogue and an overwhelming plot, it does not do the men of Tuskegee justice. The casting is good, but with a script that could have been written by a high school English student, much of the acting feels forced, and the drama is not free flowing.
It is a disgrace to history that stories like those of the Tuskegee Airmen are not more widely known. The studio and cast that released “Red Tails” should be commended for their efforts to address what could be perceived as an unpopular topic in cinema, but their effort was not enough. A standing ovation from the audience greeted the end of the film, yet I left feeling empty and frustrated. I did not expect “Red Tails” to change my life, but I did hope it would address in greater detail issues of racism and stereotype that a few hundred men trained in Tuskegee, Ala., were able to overcome and prove wrong. Lacking in depth and filled with cheap action, “Red Tails” was a disappointing ode to the men of Tuskegee.