As I approached the date to see Red Tails, I grew very excited to see a film that took George Lucas over 20 years to finally produce. I knew it was the story of a squadron of African-American men that served our country with distinction, and yet never received the same honor as other World War II veterans. But as approaching the date, I did not think to myself that I was seeing a film about black people or a film about the military. To me, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen was part of the fabric of the story of all America. But unfortunately, Hollywood still views films with colored glasses. And George Lucas finally decided to fund this project himself.
Red Tails, script by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder, tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen towards the last half of World War II. Up until then, their squadron was delegated to delivering planes and working far from the front. With the diligence of their leader A.J. Bullard, their squadron was finally given real fighting duty that they all so longed to do. The Tuskegee Airmen were a squadron of all Negro pilots and during a time of segregation, they were considered unable to perform the same duties as their white counterparts.
But with the wisdom of Major General Luntz, the squadron was finally able to prove their abilities. They were selected to fly protection alongside bombers on the first bombing run into Berlin. Most of the fighter pilots flying this escort in the past were allowed to follow the enemy when engaged. But the Tuskegee Airmen with their planes painted with distinctive red tails, were ordered to stay with the bombers no matter what. This allowed more bombers to reach their target and return to base safely.
The men that served in this squadron were never given the honor they deserved when returning home. And this film, personally bankrolled by Producer George Lucas pays homage to the men of color that risked their own futures to secure all of Americans their liberty.
This film, directed by Anthony Hemingway, has some of the earmarks of a George Lucas film. Yes the dialogue is a bit on the cheesy side, but the battle scenes are amazing. It took from the end of 2009 to 2011 to complete all the visual effects for the film. According to Director Anthony Hemingway, George Lucas indicated that if there were a seventh Star Wars film, this would be it.
The dog fighting scenes are incredibly difficult and not once was I lost within the battle scenes, which is an earmark of a very good film. The characters for the most part were composite characters of all the men that belonged to the Tuskegee Airmen squadron. And the film gave a good mix of time at the barracks, time in the air, and their time off-duty.
This movie does not take a wide look at the entire journey these men took, as depicted in the 1995 HBO special, but looks at a specific time during the War and tries to correct a few errors made in the 1995 Mini-Series.
All in all, Red Tails is an enjoyable film with great action moments that will please any moviegoer. My advice is be sure to bring a young man with you. Most of these men that fought so hard our country were very young and it not just serves as a great action flick, but as a lesson of America’s past and finally brings honor to the men who were known as The Tuskegee Airmen.
Red Tails is rated PG-13 for some sequences of war violence and has a runtime of 2 hours and 5 minutes.
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-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films; see her work on SilentHollywood.com®