Now Playing: Another Terrible Film in George Lucas’ Canon

I understand what ‘Red Tails’ tries to accomplish. The film wants to inform the world about the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen. Unfortunately, it sure doesn’t do that very well. Instead, it’s melodramatic, cheesy, stereotypical and mind-numbing.

When World War II began, military officials believed that black pilots were physically and mentally incapable of winning aerial dog fights. Their abilities were put to test in an operation known as the Tuskegee Experiment. Black fighter pilots were grouped together and sent off on low altitude watchdog missions. If they noticed Axis powers infringing on their territory in trains or trucks, they were ordered to blow them up. If they did well, there was the possibility that they’d some day be sent on dog fighting missions – but that was never the real intention of the racist leader (Bryan Cranston) who approved the experiment.

When the Tuskegee Airmen proved to be a valuable asset to the Air Force, they were finally sent on missions protecting bombers to their destinations. Their results were better than those of white fighter pilots, and the Tuskegee Airmen became known as the pilots with red-tailed jets – or “Red Tails.”

As cool as this story sounds, the film’s execution is dreadful. Here’s how the movie spells out the events: The black pilots are better than the white pilots because they don’t ditch the bombing convoy just to blow more Nazis out of the sky. White pilots don’t follow orders – but then again, neither does our small group of black pilots. One of them is a wild card, always breaking orders. In fact, his breaking of orders is portrayed as the reason why the Tuskegee Airmen earn that first bombing run – as if they’re being rewarded for going off mission. “Doesn’t that go against everything we’re supposed to learn about them,” you might ask. Yes. Yes it does.

The entire film is full of contradictions like this and loaded with fluff. As if the actual real-life story wasn’t good enough, a fictional subplot large enough to be a movie of its own has been written in. The wild card pilot falls in love with an Italian woman, and we get a love story even sappier than the one in ‘Pearl Harbor.’

Another odd thing about our “heroes” is how much they enjoy killing. All they want to do is kill Nazis. They feel no remorse whatsoever – even if they kill the non-threatening ones. In the opening scene, they blow up a truck that one of them believes to be a Nazi artillery vehicle. But the truck has no Nazi markings. We’re never even told whether it is or isn’t. The characters don’t care, so the filmmakers think we don’t too.

The only way that ‘Red Tails’ could be any worse is to cast Tracy Morgan as one of the leads. (We get Cuba Gooding, Jr. instead, which is almost as bad.) The awful dialogue sounds like it was pulled right out of a ‘Star Wars’ script: “Red Leader, this is Red Five,” and “Red Four is a go.” The movie even includes “woo-hoos” and one-liners after the heroes shoot down enemy forces. In fact, the look of the film is exactly like that of ‘The Phantom Menace’. The dogfights look more like ‘Star Wars’ than WWII.

‘Red Tails’ is so bad that it makes ‘Pearl Harbor’ look like ‘Saving Private Ryan’. While the real story deserves to be told, the movie does not deserve to be seen. If I was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, I’d be embarrassed by ‘Red Tails’.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆


  1. HuskerGuy

    While I haven’t seen Red Tails yet, I’d recommend watching HBO’s Tuskegee Airmen movie for what sounds like a much better take on the group. It was made back in ’95 and the blu ray just came out this week.

    Despite the bad to mediocre reviews I’ve seen of Red Tails, I am still going to see it so I can personally judge how it holds up against the ’95 movie.

  2. Or, according to the way Lucas’s brain works, you and the rest of society must be racist if the film doesn’t turn out to be a blockbuster. He believes he’s incapable of making bad movies, so it must be you with the problem.

    • hurin

      I knew the movie was garbage once Lukas played the racist card. It’s so obvious he was trying to silence the critics.

  3. JM

    George Lucas is using his wealth to pretend he’s living in the 1940s.

    How would ‘Red Tails’ be judged as a film, if it was released the same weekend as ‘Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe’?

    The problem is, kids today don’t want to put on their propeller beanies.

  4. lordbowler

    I just saw the movie also… I had high hopes since this story was done by HBO in 1995’s The Tuskegee Airmen which was excellent.

    This movie sucked by comparison: (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD)
    The first thing that annoyed me was during the opening scene when the Bombers are abandoned by the fighter escort, the titles (in red) show up right over the action preventing you from seeing half of the scene. This should have been treated like the D-Day Invasion in Saving Private Ryan. Instead, the credits distract taking us out of the movie and destroying all of the emotional impact of the bomber crews dyeing.

    Then, the stereotypical black pilots are introduced. I’ve seen one referred to as “Mush Mouth” in reviews where you can’t understand what he is saying as he is chewing on something the entire time. Then there’s Cuba who always has an unlit pipe in his mouth.

    The acting was just not good for the most part, there were few high points, but mostly it was dull. I was just waiting for the flashy dog-fights to keep me awake.

    There was only one scene where a pilot enters a “whites only” officers club and gets beat up, but doesn’t have a mark on him in the brig. I guess the 10 men who attacked him all missed his face with their kicks.

    The leader is an alcoholic, which seems not to impact his flying at all, but his subordinate seems to think he’s at fault for a fellow pilot’s crash landing.

    For such a great story which has been done before well and to premiere so close to MLK Jr. day, the movie is a disaster (and not in the good way).

    The planes are pretty, though, so there is that.

  5. I’ll reserve judgement of the film till after I’ve seen it, but I will say one thing, regarding the pilot dialogue such as “Red Leader, this is Red Five,” and “Red Four is a go.”

    Lucas lifted that kind of dialogue for the Star Wars movies, straight from old WWII movies lol! (And he happily admits it) Watch the B&W Damnbusters, and you’ll see half the dialogue and the basic template for the trench run in Star Wars is straight from it. So this kind of dialogue isn’t so much from a Star Wars script, as WWII scripts… so kind of appropriate… 😉