Possible SPOILER ALERT!!!
The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For…
This is my Review (my opinion) on the film Red Tails.
I went to see the movie Red Tails today. I really don’t know what to say about the film that already hasn’t been said in other reviews. I was disappointed. Let’s put the controversy aside for now. The graphics were good, the movie was entertaining , but I didn’t feel it did the Tuskegee airmen justice at all. The dialogue throughout the film left much to be desired. The character development was shallow at best and I felt like I never got to know the characters well enough. In the HBO film Tuskegee Airmen, I felt attachment to the characters, I felt emotional towards them, this wasn’t the case in this film. The plot itself was just all over the place. Yeah, we see some things blow up every so often, but I kept waiting and waiting for the Big Mission, for the climax of the film, and it never came.
The historical aspect: If you go into this movie expecting to get a history lesson on the Tuskegee airmen, you’ll be greatly disappointed. The film itself doesn’t really touch on the true significance and the impact that the Tuskegee airmen had not just on the War in the European theater, but on the home front. At this time, African-Americans were fighting a “Double V War,” victory overseas and victory at home. Many Tuskegee airmen fought not just for their rights as servicemen, but for the rights of Black people to be treated as equal citizens in the United States. You get none of this from the movie. In fact, race relations really weren’t a big thing other than a bar scene at an Officers Club, there isn’t much in terms of race relations or racial reconciliation.
Other Historical Issues: In one scene, a character is put in a German Prisoner of War Camp (Stalag) and you’d think that he walked into a country club or something. In case people didn’t know German POW camps were notorious for their brutality, especially en route to their Stalags because the Geneva Convention was only applied somewhat within the camps. It was not uncommon for prisoners to be mistreated or malnourished en route to those POW camps. Additionally, African-Americans faced an added threat because they were considered to be of the “inferior stock,” according to Nazi ideology. But, looking at this movie, you would think being in a Nazi Prisoner of War camp was no big thing. Overall, if you’re looking for something historical…this isn’t going to be the best choice. I recommend the HBO film Tuskegee airmen, watching a documentary or reading a book.
I also took issue with the fact that the film made light of the actual act of combat itself. There is nothing pleasant about killing people, or having to fear for your life constantly. Many airmen came back with PTSD because they either witnessed someone else killed in front of them or they killed someone themselves. In Ken Burn The War, one airman recounts feeling physically sick after his first aerial kill. But this movie, doesn’t even take into account the emotional trauma that came along with this job. It’s almost like a video game or something where you just shoot the people and keep playing or you die and then just restart the game.
The Controversy: Yes it’s true, there are no Black women in the film at all. In one scene, there is a drawing of a Black woman on plane, but you have to pay attention or else you won’t see it. There wasn’t a scene where a Black airmen mentioned a wife, a mother or even held up a photo of a girl he left back home. People will argue that this wasn’t about the airmen’s personal lives, it was about combat. If that’s the case, then why would a love story about an Italian woman and a Black airmen (which was really superfluous to the movie) be in the film? Why not just leave out the romance aspect altogether? Instead the presence of the Black women in these men’s lives was omitted and a fictional romance put in and in reality, it’s more historically accurate that there would be a romance going on between a Black airmen and his Black wife as nearly all the Tuskegee airmen married Black women. Looking at this film you would think Black women weren’t even affiliated with the airmen and did nothing when (in reality) we know that Black women played an important role in supporting them. Have you ever heard of Maycie Herrington or Lena Horne? I wasn’t expecting a large portion of the film to be dedicated to Black women, but would it have been that difficult to have a scene of a Black man holding up a picture of his Black wife in there…seriously is it that hard? As I said before, in every other WWII movie that features white men, they always have the white lady either in the film or referenced as being at home supporting her man, but for some reason with Black women it’s different.
Overall, this movie could have been better…with a 58 million dollar budget I was expecting more. The HBO film was great though, I recommend that if you want a bit more history, as well as more of a steady plot line. Oh, and don’t market a movie as a “Black Film,” and omit Black women and only feature non-black women.
The Tuskegee airmen (the real ones) were amazing. I am forever grateful to them for their contribution to this country, the world and the well-being of Black people. They are truly my heroes and I give them the utmost respect. It’s a shame this movie doesn’t do them justice.