January 21, 2012

Review of Red Tails

Last night was the nationwide release of George Lucas' World War II film about the Tuskegee Airmen; Red Tails.  The story follows a small group of African American aviators as they battle both German fighters above the skies of Europe and racial injustices on the ground.  I joined friends to brave an ice-storm here in the midwest to check out the film for ourselves.

Red tails is a largely feel-good action flick that isn't trying to shock.  It certainly has its fair share of emotional moments, but Red Tails is not a gritty modern war film in the vein of Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers.  The tone is, however, exactly how Lucas designed it.  According to Lucas in a recent Daily Show interview:
"It was designed to be a film during the war - its very patriotic, very jingoistic, very old fashioned, corny.  Its just exactly like flying leathernecks only this one was held up from release in 1942 when it was shot and I’ve been trying to get it released ever since."
This style is most obvious when the bomber pilots comment on the Tuskegee Airmen above the skies of Europe.  The way they describe the action and their feelings about the airmen feel very propagandistic.  Certainly the sentiments were true, but the delivery feels like something right out of a signal corps newsreel.  Viewers who are willing to take this style for what it is will be fine; viewers expecting modern dialogue risk missing the mark.

The most impressive aspect of the film are the visual effects.  I would argue that no air war film has ever looked this great.  The waves of B-17 bombers are breathtaking.  The fighters' movement is sweeping and exhilarating.  The action is fast, but so well laid out that the audience never loses their bearings.  Considering that much of the action takes place in the vast, cloud-filled sky - this context is quite impressive.  For any war or aviation fan, the visuals alone make Red Tails a must-see.

Red Tails is also complete with some references to Star Wars.  Fans of the saga will notice that the airmen's call signs are Red 1, Red 2 (and so on).  As the pilots approach a target, they are even told to "Cut the chatter" in the same way that Red Leader instructs his group of X-Wing pilots.

Overall, I thought Red Tails more than lived up to expectations.  As advertised, it is corny yet inspiring and the aerial combat is unparalleled.  Even my wife enjoyed it (even going so far to say she enjoys this type of movie to Star Wars.)  I recommend it to anyone; Star Wars fan, history buff, or just the casual movie-goer.

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