My take on “Red Tails”

The ‘rents and I, on our standing Wednesday date, went to see Red Tails. Interested on cultural, historical and technical levels–AND pre-warned by other friends’ reviews–I figured it was worth checking out and giving my two cents on.

It was a decent film. Not the greatest or necessarily most fluid story, but decent. I do appreciate that the story was told, and released to the movie-going public. The flight sequences were AWESOME–to be expected of a George Lucas flick, naturally, and Terence Blanchard did his usual great job composing the score. The choice to use a lesser known main cast was inspired–outside of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard, many of the young actors have few big-screen credits. I recognized a few actors portraying the airmen–Ne-Yo is kinda hard to miss, and my diehard loyalty to All My Children eventually helped me recognize Michael B. Jordan. I also picked some out by sight to connect later on IMDB (like Elijah Kelley, who I ironically watched the next day in a classic Oprah with the cast of Hairspray) and marveled at the ones I didn’t recognize (he must have used his given name, because I DO NOT remember seeing Method Man in this movie. Plus not having regularly watched Moesha, I wouldn’t have recognized a grown-up Marcus T. Paulk if he’d jumped up and bit me). And of course, devotion to classic soaps and sitcoms grabbed Bryan Cranston and Gerald McRaney right off.

Sadly, the plot development was a little scatter-shot. In an effort to introduce us to as many as the flyers as possible, a lot of the stories were haphazardly developed or underdeveloped. (I will attempt to avoid too many spoilers, but be warned if you haven’t seen it yet….) The love story between Lightning and the Italian girl is quaint but a little forced–so much out of character with his ladies’ man persona that when he proposes it doesn’t seem genuine. Also, the confrontation at the officers’ club and the ensuing brawl was extremely forced. The weak allusion to The Great Escape with Junior’s capture was so ill-conceived it almost didn’t need to be in there–but then Junior would have no story. Michael B. Jordan’s Maurice came onto the base as a newbie, and while he (and we) were introduced to the other airmen, we got NO backstory on him at all. Why focus on his interaction with everyone if we’re not going to learn anything about him? Lastly, (or at least the last one I’ll mention) Easy’s issues with drinking (and subsequent resolution) were too predictable and unrealistic.

Even though it seems like I’m unhappy with the movie, the story was pretty well told even with the gaping holes. The movie gave us a small slice of the history about the 332nd fighter group, and considering that there are so many more stories untold and so many more people who weren’t included in THIS story, it did its part in giving as broad a spectrum as possible to an entire untold segment of our nation’s history. Yes, I did expect better (which prevailing opinion tells me that HBO’s The Tuskegee Airmen was), but for the greater good–having more of our positive and influential stories told in the mainstream AND appreciated by all audiences–decent works for me this time.

original image: http://civilrights.si.edu/blackwings/items/show/55

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