Just went to see Red Tails, starring Terrence Howard (Iron Man, Hustle and Flow), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry McGuire, Men of Honour), Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Felon), Tristin Wilds (90210, The Secret Life of Bees), Elijah Kelley (Hairspray, Take the Lead), Daniela Ruah (From TV: NCIS, Hawaii Five-O), and Ne-Yo (Precious, Stomp The Yard).
This was a great war movie, taken from actual events involving the Tuskegee Airmen, the group of black pilots who were discriminated against in WWII. I say they were discriminated against, what actually happened was the top brass made a decision that black pilots were not smart enough and did not have enough courage to engage in real battles. So they were sent off to ground targets, no real air-to-air combat for them. The movie takes place in 1944, in Italy, where Cuba Gooding Jr. is a company commander overlooking this group of frustrated pilots. They want to engage the enemy, just are not given the chance. The movie was based on the 332 Fighter Group and the 477 Bombardment Group of the Army Air Corps.
Back in the states, Col. Bullard (played by Terrence Howard) is fighting to get his men a chance to succeed. He talks his way into an attack on a beach, the pilots show they have courage and can take out the enemy. Based on that success, he gets them the chance to escort a group of bombers, provided they got new P-51 planes. They did, it was a smart move on all parts. They had the bright idea to paint the tails of the new planes red, hence the movie name. The men did exactly what they were supposed to, the bombers got over and back safely, a rare occurrence for those type of runs. So Howard got enough traction in Washington to ask for a plum assignment, escorting the bombers for a run over Berlin.
In reality they had three P-51 fighters, one B-17, and a C-47 to play with. When you see the film, there are hundreds in the sky at a time, or so it seems. Lots of CGI involved, it looks great. The movie starts with a squad of bombers and fighters protecting them getting attacked by the Germans. What the Germans did was provoke the fighter pilots, dragging them away from their job (protecting the bombers), then a second group of Germans went after the bombers, causing heavy damage. The air fights look real, you can actually follow the action.
On a sub-plot, one of our 4 main pilots falls in love with an Italian girl, they get really involved, plan to get married. Another gets captured, has to work on escaping. A third (Nate Parker) has a drinking problem, may have caused one of his pilots to crash, another to die. So we have lots going on. I guess one of the opportunities with the movie is the script. Some of the dialogue is lame: “Let’s go get them!” a little over the top, but not enough to ruin the evening. It is 2 hours, and I do believe you got your money’s worth.
Some of the fun stuff was the way these black pilots embraced religion. One had a drawing of a “Black Jesus” on the dashboard of his plane, shared openly to anyone who would listen that they should be praying to the Black Jesus. They prayed before missions, after missions, it was refreshing to see that side rather than the drinking and fighting that we normally see in war movies. There were conflicts with the white pilots, which was real life. They could not go into the officer’s club, even though they were officers in some cases. Things changed after they supported the bombers successfully, they were accepted into the other pilot circles.
The big conflict is a German pilot who leads the attacks on most of the runs, they call him pretty boy. He is good, and they have to work hard to stay up with him. Near the end of the movie, the last big run, the Germans have brought out the Me 262 jet fighters. Real jets, 540 miles an hour, 4 machine guns in the nose, they could fly 100 mph faster, higher, and shoot longer than the Tuskegee airmen could. They made their first appearance in September, 1944.
So we have a really fast, tense dogfight. Our heros have to figure out how to outsmart faster pilots in the newest technology. You will have to see that, it is worth the price of popcorn. May did not go, I went with some guys from the neighborhood, worked out well. Interesting, no real rough language, no sex, no drugs, a couple of guys get shot and die, but with dignity. When the movie was over, the audience clapped. How long has it been since you were in a movie that they clapped at the end? Have you ever? 3.5 Messerschmitts .