There’s nothing like two hours of hokey, old-fashioned, and exciting entertainment. Ridden with clichés and one-dimensional characters, big budget blockbusters are the foundation of American entertainment. I mean, what would we do if pretentious art films were the only things hitting the megaplex? You know what we would do? We would poke our freaking eyes out, and beg people like Spielberg and Lucas and Jackson to just get back behind the director’s chair, and give us the goods. But not Michael Bay. No, Michael Bay is on a permanent time out after the Transformers sequels.
George Lucas announced his retirement from big budget filmmaking, saying that he’ll be going out with Red Tails, a fictionalized telling of the Tuskegee airmen, the first all African-American pilot group. Serving as Executive Producer for the project, it was a story that Lucas was very eager to tell. He felt that the Tuskegee pilots were extremely underappreciated and wanted to bring their story to life in the most entertaining way possible. Now, in 2012, he’s achieved that goal, finally releasing Red Tails after twenty-odd years in production.
Red Tails’ main pilots are ladies’ man, Lightning (David Oyelowo), the “best pilot in the whole damn world”, Joker (Elijah Kelley), Junior (Tristan Wilds), and their leader, Easy (Nate Parker). Together, they make up the most talented and fiercest pilots in the military, but because they’re colored, they’re forced to do minuscule surveillance jobs where no enemies have been spotted for months, as they aren’t trusted to handle real combat due to the belief that they have “inferior mental capacity” to the other pilots.
The group’s leaders, Major Emanuelle Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and Colonel AJ Bullard (Terrence Howard), land them a mission that involves escorting bombers across enemy territory. They nail it with no US casualties which catapults their status into the top air league in the entire military.
TV director Anthony Hemingway makes his feature film debut with Red Tails, and the directing is definitely the first thing I want to talk about, because it’s f***ing awesome. Granted, this is one of the most heavily produced movies you’ll ever see, but it’s damn cool to look at, and the CGI is quite realistic. The dogfight scenes are breathtaking, and Hemingway makes use of steady cam, immersing us in the action instead of flip-flopping the camera every which way so that we see nothing.
The screenplay is the definition of cheesy, but I really didn’t care because the corny one-liners and unrealistic dialogue is just a part of what makes Red Tails the old-fashioned action fest that it is. In fact, the film borders on Chaos Cinema, with the extended dogfight scenes and thin plot, but it’s Chaos Cinema done right. Unlike 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Red Tails know how to balance action and plot well enough to the point where the resulting product actually comes off as a movie and not a commercial for explosives.
I had an amazing time watching Red Tails. It’s a fun, family friendly movie that can appeal to all ages, races, genders, and anything else you can think of. It’s an inspiring tale that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously and being a George Lucas skeptic, I was surprisingly impressed by this movie’s capacity to entertain and inspire all at the same time, while still not losing its edge. The surprisingly bad reviews can be called “racism”, but I call it opinion, and by definition, Red Tails isn’t necessarily a “good movie”, but it’s an extremely fun one to watch, and isn’t that all we really need sometimes?