Saturday, January 28, 2012
It should have been my priority to get this commentary on Red Tails up much sooner - considering it took George Lucas 20 years to get this film made, with a major obstacle being, Hollywood not wanting to spend big bucks on a movie featuring a black cast. Plus, when I see a preview screening, I'd prefer to get my post up by opening weekend. Well, you know the old cliche - better late than never.
The Red Tails preview screening was sponsored by The Ben Franklin Global Forum, The Union League of Philadelphia and The Tuskegee Airman Greater Philadelphia Chapter. The pre-screening presentation was in honor of these men of such historic significance. In attendance were real life Tuskegee Airmen: Bertram Levy, Eugene Richardson, Henry Moore, John Harrison, Cornelius Gaither and Roscoe Draper. With the audience primarily made up of members of the Military and students in military schools.
The film begins more than halfway into World War II with the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group (Tuskegee Airmen) already trained, capable, ready and stationed in Italy. They are eager to encounter the "Jerrys" and are looking for an opportunity to do some real combat missions, but this glory goes only to white military pilots.
The Tuskegee pilots are stationed outside of the main action of the war. A fact that disheartens, but does not deter these ever vigilant fly boys. They happen to come upon an enemy train and blow it to smithereens in the first scene. This group of pilots is lead by Marty "Easy" Julian, (Nate Parker) but it's really the dare devil of the group, Joe "Lightening" Litte (David Oyelowo) that the others are inspired by.
When I first heard Terrance Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr were in Red Tails, I pictured both of them as pilots. But that's because I didn't realize how young these airmen were; neither Howard or Gooding would be age appropriate. Instead, they play higher ranking officials. Howard's role as Colonel A.J. Bullard plays politics with The US Army and wages war against prejudice and injustice, an ever present threat to the Airmen, which in many ways was more damaging then the whole German Army.
Gooding plays Major Emanuelle Stance, he's the commanding officer of the Unit, doling out advice and motivating speeches in a laid back, much less military manner than Colonel Bullard.
Lucas having been a fan of HBO's The Wire, choose the man who directed many of those episodes, Anthony Hemingway to direct Red Tails. And in turn, Hemingway brought a number of actors from The Wire to round out this cast. (Here's a fun interview with actors -Ne-Yo, Tristan Wilds and Elijah Kelley on Global Grind.com)
The film does a magnificent job in portraying the skills, patriotism, bravery and honor of these men, and I'm glad the few remaining Tuskegee Airmen lived to see Lucas's version and vision of the film.
However, George Lucas is a real geek - consumed with toys, cool shots, bringing you inside the plane, making you experience the battle, the action - excellent special effects! What he lacks is the ability to bring you inside the characters or to find the heart of the piece. Oh, the elements are there: each character has a foible, Joe has a love interest, the pilots band together as brothers, but the elements don't blend together to become one really good, engrossing picture.
Still, it's an important movie to go see in terms of history and in a show of support to let Hollywood know black casts can create box office revenue. So don't illegally down load or buy a bootleg copy for this one, PLEASE!