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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Red Tails | Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Nate Parker, David Oyelowo | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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Red Tails | Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Nate Parker, David Oyelowo | Review

This based-on-fact tale of the Tuskegee Airmen and their daring, almost unheralded exploits during World War II is almost two films – one earthbound and one in the clouds.

Aside from the exciting dogfights and bomber escort missions over Germany and Italy, there were fights in Washington D.C. with top brass. There was the fight for respect, the fight for permission.  There was the fight with their own country over rampant racism, the U.S. government’s own boot on their neck before they ever had to fight an Axis Power.

The year is 1944; an Italian airbase under the direction of Major Emmanuelle Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is home to pilots Marty “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker), Ray “Junior” Gannon  (Tristan Wilds) Joe “Lightning” Little (David Oyelowo), Andrew “Smoky” Salem (Ne-Yo)  Samuel “Joker” George (Elijah Kelley) and David “Deke” Watkins (Marcus T. Paulk).  Method Man makes an appearance as Cliff “Sticks” Smith.

Armed with second-hand aircraft, the pilots wait for a meaningful mission, one that will let their talents and skill get recognition from military elite.  Trying to get that mission for them is Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) who must make a case for the untested airmen to skeptical officers.

Back at the base, Lightening falls for a young Italian woman that he spied from his plane one day.  Sofia (Daniela Ruah) is the only instance in the film where the rebellious Lightening listens, and it’s to his heart.  Otherwise he has a hard time following orders.

Flight Leader Easy hits the booze hard and has philosophical differences with Lightening, his best friend and bunk-mate.  Junior would prefer to be called Ray Gun and is the youngest of the squad.  Smoky talks with a pronounced lisp and is quick with a joke.  Maurice Wilson (Michael B. Jordan) is the new airman on base.

When meaningful missions are assigned, the squadron proves they can match and even surpass enemy fire in stunning aerial sequences that highlight skill and maneuvers that take both German and American pilots by surprise.

Back on earth, the plot can detour into predictable sap and cliché.  Still the likeable cast has a charisma that makes you care about them and the story is worth telling simply for its historical and social implications.

Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. are more figureheads than actual men, but each brings a quiet dignity along with them.  Nate Parker and David Oyelowo’s characters draw the viewer in the most with portrayals full of conflicted conscience.

Director Anthony Hemingway (Empire Records) directs his ensemble in the fashion of the 1940’s, eschewing hard-edged grit for vintage melodrama and sentimentality.  The importance of the story takes precedence, however, and if there is anything to forgive, it’s too much earnestness.

Executive producer George Lucas brings with him the means for computer magic in aerial action and the effect is one of visually escorting the men on their missions and dodging bullets in mid flight.  When they are hit, we can feel it.  We see what they see and it is spectacular and terrifying.

Red Tails is worth seeing if only for the dogfights - and these guys were underdogs.  That makes their tale all the more triumphant.

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