Red Tails: “Ack! My Plane’s Being Riddled by Clichés!”
One of the more inspiring civil rights stories is that of the Tuskegee Airmen—an African American squadron of fighter pilots who served with honors during World War II. The story is especially inspiring given the fact that, until that time—and only after extreme pressure was exerted—blacks were not allowed to fly in the military at all. Red Tails is a dramatization of that time, and like most Hollywood historical reenactments, it has its heart in the right place—if not the ability to successfully pull it off.
Directed by Treme’s Anthony Hemingway and produced by George Lucas, Red Tails stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard as Air Force officers ordered to get the fledgling “Tuskegee Experiment” off the ground. And while unsurprising resistance comes from military superiors who want to see the program fail, troubles also arise from within the squadron in the form of a prickly alliance between squad leader “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker) and ace flyer “Lightning” Little (David Oyelowo). While Easy steadies his nerves with booze, Lightning is a show-off who refuses to follow orders—and if this is all beginning to sound a little too Top Gun for your taste, there’s a good reason for it.
For a flick that supposedly battles against stereotypes, Red Tails is chock-a-block full of ’em. There’s your hotshot pilot, your straight-and-narrow officer, your gruff/inspiring commander, your wide-eyed neophyte… and trust me when I say the list goes on. Red Tails also sports some of the most grievous and laughably awful exposition I’ve heard in quite a while—BUT. If all you want is to watch African Americans scream, “DIE, NAZI DOG, DIE!!!” as they blow goose-steppin’ krauts back to the motherland in exciting dogfight sequences? Then maybe suffering through more than a few cliché-ridden scenes is worth it. Those battle scenes are pretty sweet.