Based on true events (though highly fictionalized), the movie focuses on four African American pilots from the Second World War — the top guns of the 332nd Fighter Group — the Tuskegee Airmen. In fighting the racial discrimination of the U.S. military, they prove their mettle by taking on dangerous assignments in active combat.
Richard: 2.5 out of 5
Mark: 1.5 out of 5
Richard: Mark, you can’t accuse Red Tails of being subtle. It is unabashedly patriotic, unapologetically melodramatic and an unashamed throwback to the propaganda movies of the 1940s. The mix and match of those elements works for the first hour, but the time one of the pilots whoops, “Let’s give those newspapers something to write about!” the once charming tone of the movie started to wear thin for me. You?
Mark: Charmed? Naw, I was too busy being stupefied at the racial condescension of the movie. The movie has the best of intentions, but its anti-racist message is lost amidst the cardboard characters, leaden dialogue, wooden acting and overemphatic score. The story is so dumbed down it’s a bit of an insult to those Tuskegee airmen it wants to honour. Neat flight jackets, though.
RC: I didn’t find the script condescending, just ordinary. An extraordinary, and mostly hidden history like the story of the Tuskegee Red Tails deserves something a little more than a by-the-book retelling. I agree with you about the flight jackets; they are sharp, but I also found the in-flight scenes to be exciting. Too much dialogue for my taste,
but the aerial photography was fun.
MB: The aerial photography may be the only reason to watch this picture. Yet, in many of the long shots, it looked like a video game to me. And was there ever a more nauseating, saccharine romantic subplot as the one in this movie? I was so grateful that most of the dialogue was in Italian! Some of the acting was passable: Terrence Howard had a couple of good speeches, but most of the time he acted with his pipe.
RC: Ha! I think I enjoyed this more than you. But just by a hair. It’s too long, too talky and too corny, but I liked some of the characters and enjoyed watching the flight sequences. I do, however, wish there was less dialogue during the dogfights. I think fighter pilots in attack mode have better things to concentrate on than making wisecracks.
MB: Yes, the confidence of the pilots under fire bordered on the comical. But one thing I found interesting: The racism of the pilots’ fellow white Americans was worse than of the Nazis, who only dismissed them with snotty attitude rather than overtly trying to beat them up and using the dreaded N-word. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the point packed a wallop for me.