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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Review: RED TAILS


"We have a right to fight for our country, the same as every other American. We will not go away."
-- Colonel A.J. Bullard

Red Tails is a 2012 war film directed by Anthony Hemingway that tells the story of the Tuskagee Airmen, a squadron of African-American fighter pilots in World War II. Subjected to simple missions, the squadron led by Marty 'Easy' Julian (Nate Parker) and Joe 'Lightning' Little (David Oyelowo) finds themselves bored with the war they've chosen to fight. Despite having proven their ability time and again, the higher-ranking officers don't see any reason to give the Tuskagees any more responsibility. However, Colonel A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) finally makes a deal with the head of a bombing squadron who has been consistently losing bombers after their fighter escorts chose to attack the enemy fighters rather than provide cover. After a successful first mission, the Tuskagees, who have become affectionately referred to as 'Red Tails,' continue to delve deeper into their wartime effort, taking on more and more difficult missions until they're offered the chance to make a final run at Berlin itself.

I know I'm a bit late on seeing this film, but I finally had the opportunity to sit down and give it a watch. Part of the reason that Red Tails gained so much early publicity is the fact that Star Wars creator George Lucas financed and produced the project. When you have that big of a name stamped onto a film, you can be sure it's at least going to generate a bit of publicity, even if the film itself isn't exactly all that great. Sadly, that's the case here.

The first thing you're going to notice is that the film's dialogue seems way too forced and almost proves to be laughable from the get-go. As you may know, I consider an effective screenplay to combine two things: a decent storyline and above-average dialogue. When it comes to the things the characters say, their words have to match the time and the place of the film and seem realistic given the film's setting and the characters themselves. Unfortunately, Red Tails fails entirely on this given point. While the film offers an interesting - albeit fictionalized - story based on real events, the dialogue is so atrociously bad that it took me out of the film from the start. Nothing any of the characters say seems realistic, and it all just seems out of place from the World War II effort. In a way, the dialogue makes the characters a little too unbelievable, and as a result, there's no way for the audience to get lost in the storyline. The screenwriters got half the formula, but you need all the ingredients to make an effective screenplay.

It's just too bad that the script isn't all that great because the acting isn't half-bad. Sure, we're not really getting anything awards-worthy, but considering the type of film, I thought the cast did a decent job. Parker and Oyelowo steal the show, but Howard does manage to have a few good scenes. Also be on the watch for smaller roles from the likes of Bryan Cranston, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ne-Yo.

If anything works well within the film, it's the dogfight sequences. Lucas has always been on the top of his game when it comes to special effects, and as we have seen with the Star Wars franchise, he sure knows how to bring forth the aerial battles. The dogfights seem mostly genuine, and they offer the only bits of excitement that the film is going to produce. Sure, the effects themselves aren't necessarily top-notch, but they're still pretty darn good considering. These dogfights may be as close as we get to new Star Wars-esque battles, and for that, Red Tails may be worth the time.

At the end of the day, Red Tails is probably a film you can miss. Although it did generate a bit of publicity early on, it failed to score at the box office, earning less than it took to make. The melodramatic and predictable storyline, mixed with off-kilter dialogue, makes this one a tad bit unwatchable and ultimately throws away some quality visual effects work. It's just too bad no one's really going to appreciate it.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: D
1.5 Thumbs Down

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