DIRECTOR: Anthony Hemingway
May Contain Spoilers!
What can I say. George Lucas, just prior to selling Lucasfilm to Disney in 2013 used the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen to contrive a bunch of Star Wars style dogfight sequences, a mirror of his dogfight inspired scenes from Star Wars in 1977. That is what I was expecting going in to this but what did I get when I finally sat down and watched it?
Worse: The Tuskegee Airman story is basically the Glory (1989), Edward Zwick’s moving classic about the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first all black regiment in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War, of the Second World War, so it is a true story and one of great historical importance and not a opportunity to be wasted.
So basically, Lucas should have had kept well clear and we thought that Michael Bay was out of line for his treatment of Pearl Harbor (2001). Well, Pearl Harbor (2001) is pure gold compared to this. Anthony Hemingway, known for his TV directing with shows such as The Wire, Fringe and Glee under his belt, assumed the directing duties for this but it reeks of Lucas as his cronies, with a mediocre script, equally mediocre acting from a cast which should know better and dialogue not to die for, but possibly from! Appalling isn’t the word but why have I been so generous with my rating, 4/10, you may ask?
The dogfights, CGI no doubt and the sound design is outstanding. If the rest of the film was up this level then we’re looking at 7 or 8 out of 10 but the rest of the movie drags it all down. The opening credits set the tone, well sort of, as they appear to be retro 1980’s in design but this may not even be intentional, though I will presume that it is. The ADR work is so obvious it is literally unreal and the script is something that I would expect from a 12-year-old to have knocked -up with their mum’s old typewriter, one draft and some Tip-Ex!
The Tuskegee Airmen is a relatively obscure tale and though it maybe a case of clutching at straws to find a WW2 subject which has not been done to death, Lucas does claim to have been working on this since 1988 but he says a lot of things I doubt are true to be honest, it’s here, it’s real and it should be taken seriously. Instead it is an insult, a cringeworthy one at that to the audience as a whole and I would presume especially to those who it is supposed to be honouring, it was embarrassing.
All and I mean ALL the major plot twists were telegraphed and in some cases repeatedly, and it seemed to want to dip into multiple aspects of the war, touching almost unashamed on The Great Escape (1963), Pearl Harbor (2001) and it superior, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and I suppose the aforementioned Glory (1989), even though it’s not a WW2 film.
Terrance Howard as Coronal Bullard was supposed to be inspiring along with his Major, Cuba Gooding Jr. but both were miscast, with Gooding Jr. seemingly having a laugh throughout! Not what you would expect from a tearful Oscar winner really…
So, is Red Tails worth a watch? NO. As a film I find it abhorrent and as a film I would mark this as 1/10. But, due to the visually stunning dogfight scenes, clearly the motive for the entire film, and even though they have created a Nazi Darth Vader for these scenes, it’s like the Pod Race and Darth Maul Duel’s in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), they manage to not only make a rubbish film watchable but elevate the entrainment value considerably.
Red Tails also gives the impression of being historically accurate but as I suspected whilst watching it, it is not. There were too many contrivances and coincidences as well as the heroic successes attribute the pilots just felt wrong and bias. The stats and claims made regarding the pilots records are still in dispute but either way, this is a fictional account and not to be taken as fact. And the use of the U.S. national anthem in the final act, was something which I would have expected in a 1950’s Cinerama travelogue, not a 2012 war film. The bad taste runs deep in this apple, bad to core.
In short, expect nothing from the script or the cast but everything from the action scenes and there is plenty to be getting along with. As a period drama this offers nothing but as a popcorn actioner, it just about makes it off the runway.
A fitting farewell to the “work” of George Lucas. His legacy, now alive and well with Disney can’t be any worse than this and so far, it looks to shaping up nicely…