Red Tails: a Film Critique

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  • Topic: Film, Tuskegee Airmen, Anthony Hemingway
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Red Tails: A Film Critique
Robert Black
ENG 225 Introduction to Film
Instructor: Dwight Paulsen
October 14, 2012

“We have a right to fight for our country. The same as every other American.” Colonel A.J. Bullard (Imdb , 2012) The film I picked for my critique is Red Tails, a historical World War II drama. The movie starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard and Gerald Mcraney, was written by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder, better known as the creator of the comic strip “the boondocks”, from a book by John B. Holway, directed by Anthony Hemingway and produced by George Lucas . In this paper the author will show how all elements of filmmaking come together to make Red Tails a memorable experience and a great American movie.

First let us familiarize ourselves with the story; Red Tails is set in 1944 Italy where a group of black pilots fight for the chance to prove their combat worth, overcoming racism and other obstacles. Red Tails is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all- black squadron in the United States Army-Air corps. The writers strive throughout the film to maintain accuracy of real events while also making it as entertaining as possible. Mister Ridley and Mister McGruder do a wonderful job of storytelling showing the struggles of these men who want nothing but to be able to fight for their country, bringing the audience along from joy to despair and back again. This was done due to the ability of the writers to access the official flight logs of the unit, and interview the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen. The reality of characterization and dialog is accomplished by using 1940’s lingo and slang, an example of great dialog that could come from the era before civil rights is “When you get upset, when you get mad, you turn red, right? When you get envious, or sick, you turn green. When you become cowardly, you turn yellow; and ya'll got the nerve to call us colored?” uttered by Leon 'Neon' Edwards played by Ne-Yo.

According to our text the actors’ job is to act and make their characters believable (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2001). The actors in this film are prime examples of the craft, watching them interact you forget you are in a theater or at home watching a movie, and believe that you are with these people on an airfield initially. This makes you feel like these are real people and not just characters, and that is the ultimate goal of an actor, to lose yourself in a character making him real. The actors in Red Tails do a phenomenal job of this, bringing the men of the Tuskegee experiment back to life after 60 plus years. Examining examples of the outstanding acting, we would have to start with the great job of the Leading man, if there were one, Terrence Howard as Colonel A.J. Bullard, the commanding officer who fights against racism at the Pentagon his superiors for the chance for his men to have a chance in battle. Other great acting jobs were put in by character actors David Oyelowo, as the go for broke, glory seeking hot shot pilot Joe 'Lightning' Little, who also has one of the side stories with him falling in love with an Italian girl, and Bryan Cranston as Colonel William Mortamus, a racist pentagon officer who does all in his power to keep the squadron from being able to prove themselves.

The next element of the movie we will examine is the cinematography, “Cinematography includes the fundamentals of producing motion pictures, including the use of effective light, accurate focus, careful composition (or arrangement), and appropriate camera movement to tell stories”(BSA, 2012). Red Tails cinematographer is John B. Aronson whose credits also include Beethoven's 3rd, Barely Legal, and Moscow Heat, as well as several television shows and video games (IMDB, 2012). On Red Tails he does an excellent job of capturing the look of 1940’s Europe and the battle scenes are...
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