It's being called the most controversial movie of our time! Okay..it really is not THAT serious. However, I was a bit surprised over the fuss that was being made over this before it even hit theaters. Especially for a George Lucas project. He, of all people, was having trouble getting funding for a film? Oh..because it didn't have a major white star in it. Now I see why. Then add to that the fact that it was getting negative reviews and I was already on edge going in.
If you don't already know what the story is about "Red Tails" it's the story of African-American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. I'm still surprised that there are some folks who don't know about their contribution to WWII. This film depicts the young pilots slowly transitioning from doing non-essential missions to getting real aerial combat that would eventually prove how dominant their dogfighting skills were.
Let me first say that I went into this film with a bit of a bias. I'm a huge George Lucas fan. There's little wrong he could do in my book. But even with the good faith he has eternally built up with the original "Star Wars" trilogy AND the "Indiana Jones" flicks (we won't even count the last one), I will be the first to admit when he screws up. Like he did with much of second "Star Wars" trilogy and even with the last "Indiana Jones" film. So as much as I wanted to LOVE this flick because of the subject matter and Lucas, I still pull no punches.
It was obvious from the very beginning that money was an issue with getting "Red Tails" made. I never knew until this movie how much I could appreciate little things like the opening credits. I've been spoiled with movies going over the top with top-notch graphics on them that it really bothered me to see some that looked like they were made with Windows Live Movie Maker. I'm going to chalk that up to the fact that Lucas wasn't accustomed to doing those. Any true "Star Wars" geek will recall that those films never had opening credits. Of course they did have the epic scrolls that really would have been much better here than the shoddy graphics they went with.
What I did like in particular was how much more action-oriented this one was as opposed to the HBO-movie that was released in 1995. That one focused more on the drama aspect. "Red Tails" really delved into the Airmen's aerial battles. That is by far one of Lucas's fortes. Every single dogfight scene keeps you on the edge of your seat. Those sequences drive the film so much that it helped to overlook some of the other minor flaws like cliche dialog at times. But let's face it...any action junkie knows that cliche dialog is a must.
By keeping it more action-oriented Lucas was able to have a more family-friendly film to appeal to all ages. It's the perfect opportunity to expose our children to the significant impact the Tuskegee Airmen had on American history. I could personally get more out of the more superior film like "The Tuskegee Airmen"; however, my 11-year-old son would easily appreciate this version more because it was more visually stimulating.
The acting was a little bit suspect in some parts. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was a predominantly Black cast. It had more to do with the fact that several of the actors (non-Black included) just didn't have much major motion picture experience. I didn't think it was possible that Ne-Yo could do a better job in "Stomp the Yard" then he would in this film but that was clearly the case. I'm chalking that up to the fault of director Anthony Hemingway (who I've never heard of until this one). He should have done a better job in getting more out of the cast.
The person who really impressed me was Denzel Jr. as Easy. His real name is Nate Parker, but I defy you to look at him and tell me he doesn't look and even act like a yong Denzel. You may remember him from "The Great Debaters". I know I did. I knew then that he was destined for greatness. It's a shame it took this long for him to get another shot in a big role. However, he ran with it and his performance helped greatly in covering up the shortcomings of his less-experienced co-stars.
All in all, "Red Tails" was an excellent experience. I would be lying if I didn't admit that it could have been better. It's obvious from watching it that if Lucas had the big-budget funding he was looking for then this could have been a classic. He did the most with what had to work with and came out with a very admirable product.
My rating: B