There will be a few minor spoilers of this film. You have been warned.
The hype machine around this film has been big for the past several months. George Lucas has taken to actually making the rounds and appearing on TV touting about how it took Hollywood nearly 25 years to do this film. Now I see why.
Red Tails in my opinion is how NOT to do a fictionalized historical film. Even at the beginning when the words “Inspired by true events” appeared, I just knew this movie wasn’t going to be good. IN less than 20 minutes I was rewarded with the horrible acting from Tristan Wilds, Elijah Kelley and worst of all Method Man’s banjo routine. Shucking and jiving at its best. I have seen many WWII films and many war films where the actors portray people coming from different backgrounds for a common cause and they wore their roles like a glove but the acting in this movie was so over the top and awful. Even if you look at Anthony Hemingway’s credentials as well as the actors hired to be in this movie, hardly any have pedigrees outside of the small screen and at least 3 along with Hemingway worked on The Wire.
Red Tails’ formula was so predictable and badly executed thanks in part to John Ridley’s and Aaron McGruder’s work on the screenplay. There were points in the movie that were supposed to be serious that backfired into humor and uncomfortable jokes that were cringe-worthy (the Black Jesus joke for one). The worst offender was when the by-the-numbers white bomber pilots meet with the by the numbers black fighter pilots, unify in the struggle against Hitler and get together in a bar and what could have been a sober reminder of race relations back home was like, failed in the rehashing of a familiar ‘whites as colored’ axiom.
There was never any true character growth in the movie especially among the main characters Easy (portrayed by Nate Parker) and Lightning (portrayed by David Oyelowo). Each of these men had their own demons, Easy was an alcoholic that lead the group and trying to live up to his father’s expectations and Lightning was your typical black Tom Cruise chip on his shoulder maverick pilot with something to prove. At certain points of the film when messages were given for characters to change, not enough was shown to show change, if nothing else there was regression. The only shining part of the movie surprisingly for me was Terrence Howard, who even in some parts seemed like his lines were taught at the Marlon Brando School for Monologue delivery.
The action scenes were surprisingly plentiful and when the dialogue didn’t murder them, it was tolerable to watch, but another issue that hurt these scenes as well as others was the musical sound track which didn’t know if it wanted to be 1940’s style battle music or 1980’s style Top Gun music.
Another issue I had with this film is the cinematography in that there was almost zero credibility that this was taking place during World War II. Oh sure, you had the costumes, the music and equipment but the movie lacked that “atmosphere” that other films seem to get right.
Also, somehow a P.O.W. sub-story was shoehorned into this mess of a movie and so much potential was squandered in a plot that could have done a little bit more to save this film. It was all resolved in nearly 10 minutes.
There is so much more about this film I could say that made it bad but then it would spoiler territory but suffice to say with a combination of bad acting, editing and directing, Anthony Hemingway’s first foray into big screen directing was a bust for a topic, even though already portrayed on HBO, that gets little fan fare in the World War II era.
Let me add this also, on twitter where #redtails is trending, there are many people who state that we need to see this to support Black film. I am all for supporting Black film. BUT…I am also for supporting GOOD FILM. You want a good period war piece with a good integration of Black characters? Refer back to Glory or A Soldier’s Story. I can’t in good conscience and in good faith recommend this movie to anyone simply because it’s a Black movie. Red Tails was an insult and it’s bothersome to know that George Lucas touts that he tried to get this done for 20+ years. This film was pandering at its best and buffoonery at its worst and if anything was educational about it, it’s what I said at the beginning, it’s how NOT to do fictionalized Black drama based on true events.
My score: 1.5 out of 5 stars.