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REVIEW: Remembering the late Tuskeegee airmen, ''Red Tails" honors spirit of America's first black pilots

buzzz worthy. . .

By Mona Austin

The last member of the Tuskeegee Airmen, Willie Rogers died at the age of 101 on Nov. 18, 2016. Rogers survived being shot in the stomach by German soliers in Italy during segregated WWII while serving with the first unit of Tuskeegee Airmen, the Red Tail Angels. This all African American pilot unit rose above racism to become recognized as some of the best in their field.  In 2012 a film about their story, "Red Tails" was released on the big screen.  In honor of their memory I am providing a film review.   "Red Tails" is available on Blue Ray DVD.  Perhaps it will make it to a classroom or Christmas stocking as a gift to ensure their story is not forgotten.


Ask me what my least favorite genre of films is and I'll say war films. 

That was my sentitment before seeing Red Tails.

Funded and helmed by seminal director George Lucas, "Red Tails,"  is the much talked about action film based on the Tuskeegee Airmen who fought  racism on the ground and in the air to help the U.S. triumph in WWII.  Starring Terrance Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. the movie highlights the heroism of America's first black fighter pilots, the 332nd Fighter Group.

Red Tails  did not deliver a tour de force performance nearly equal to Lucas' past work, as he gave a younger director a shot. It is the directorial debut of Anthony Hemingway.  To his credit there were clear signs that movie goers at the sold out Northern Virginia area theatre where I viewed it got their money's worth.  People laughed at the right times, cried  at the right times, squirmed in their seats when the raw racist attitudes were laid on the screen like an open wound indicating the tory penetrated on an emotional level. 

A war-time film, Red Tails encompassed the love element of war with a Rett Butler and Scarlett Ohara-like romance between a black soldier and Italian woman that appealed to hopeless romantics like me.  Through the use of special effects the bomb-dropping, explosive, air acrobatics  action was captivating. The film painted an adequate picture of the bravery and sacrifice the soldiers made while serving a country that discriminated against them.  

In the segregated 1930's the "airmen" had been forced to stay on the ground in the Tuskeegee Alabama Training program performing mechanical work despite their aeronautical talents and desire to fight for their country. The U.S. was struggling in the air war over Europe.   Rejected from joining the regular military due to the color of their skin, their leader, Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrance Howard) fought to prove they were as war ready as their white counterparts.  When the opportunity presented itself they famously and heroicly did not disappoint. But the brevity of the history being addressed reduced the story line to a level general staleness.   Red Tails moreso depicts a slice of the characters' lives and a slice of the Tuskeegee Airmen's story as fighter pilots. I personlly would have preferred a bigger slice.

Hemingway delivered a picture that tackled racism and equality that was equally as appealing to women as men, drawing blacks and whites.  The film took over twenty years to make because Hollywood didn't beleive in it. Lucas invested in the film fiancially, becoming Red Tails' leading "wing man" and that's admirable.  However, for someone who has a 100 foot up view of Hollywood,  the storyline and writing could have been more robust. 

Red Tails did not fly above my expectations, but the entertainment and educational value makes it worth seeing.