Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
Directed by: Anthony Hemingway
Running time: 120 min.
Release date: January 20, 2012
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure and Bio-Period Piece
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Red Tails is a fictional account of the segregated American Military Armed Flying Services told by debut feature film director Anthony Hemingway. A crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program, having faced segregation while kept mostly on the ground during World War II, are called into duty under the guidance of fictional characters Col. A.J. Bullard. Bullard is played by Academy Award nominee for Hustle & Flow (2005) Terrence Howard and Major Emanuelle Stance is played by Academy Award winner (for Jerry Maguire 1996) Cuba Gooding, Jr.
In order to understand this part of American history, one must know the story of these courageous flyers known as The Tuskegee Airmen. Due to racial discrimination, African American servicemen were not allowed to fly until 1941, when African American college graduates were selected for what the Army called "an experiment"--the creation of the segregated 99th Fighter Squadron, which trained at an airfield adjacent to Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. The 'experiment' involved training 13 black pilots and ground support members who originally formed the 99th Pursuit Squadron. The squadron quickly dubbed "The Tuskegee Airmen", was activated on March 22, 1941, and redesignated as the 99th Fighter Squadron on March 15, 1942. For every one black pilot there was 10 other black civilian, officer and enlisted men and women on ground support duty.
With as cast of actors such as Elijah Kelley as Andrew 'Joker' George and David Oyelowo as Joe 'Lightning' Little playing the emotional core of the movie, the supporting members Nate Parker, Tristan Wilde, Leslie Odom, Jr., Kevin Phillips, Method Man, Okezie Morro, Ami Ameen and Daniela Ruah as Sofia brought this inspiring film to life.
The Lucasfilm Company headed by George Lucas (Executive Producer) took a big gamble on screenwriter John Rigley (U-Turn,Three Kings, Undercover Brother) and his team to take on this project that the Hollywood community had little and no interest in backing. There was a bit of history of writer John Rigley being involved on this film because his uncle was a Tuskegee Airman. Along with Rigley's 90 year old uncle, Dr. Roscoe Brown (PhD), Lee Archer and Bill Holloman also Tuskegee Airmen were brought into the production for detailed consultation. Monumentally, these elders talked, educated and advised the 19 and 20 year old African American cast members on how life was at that time in history. They told the cast members that the distinctive red painted tails on their planes indicated who they were. This gave the movie a basis of authenticity although filmmaker Anthony Hemingway added fictional depth to certain characters, quickened the pace of certain scenes and added a timeless spark of classic adventure.
The action and adventure of the dog fights in the skies are exciting on screen. The non-stop motion and pacing is designed for pure audience escapism. I watched this movie and was amazed to experience the historical set of spectacles set against a vast panoramic computer graphic backdrop. This legendary epic is a lavish version of a bio-pic accompanied by high production values. The plot driven presentation portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations are terrific. They created the stressful environment with perfect chemistry. The intense character interaction and development is cinematic artistry.
I spoke to the Red Tails director, Dr. Roscoe Brown, and some of the cast. I asked first-time feature film director Anthony Hemingway, "what was your biggest challenge with this project?" He explained to me how fortunate he was and replied, "we had the time and assets to make this layered story come together." Dr. Roscoe Brown spoke of his conversations with the actors by saying, "they (young actors) represented true events of my life....and the flight over Germany." He also mentioned, "our record (protecting bombers) ended the segregation (in U.S. Military Armed Services) in 1948 when President Truman signed the order." Terrence Howard said he wants to take flying lesson while Cuba Gooding, Jr. remarked that he "doesn't like extensive flying".
Red Tails is a special story that everyone should see.
FILM RATING (A)