Red Tails poster

Exactly the trite, pedestrian, chest-swelling exercise one would expect it to be, this George Lucas production is just another entry in the unending cycle of films spotlighting Congoid-American achievement. These movies are always the same: mighty blacks encounter and overcome race-based adversity . . . sweeping, inspiring music soars . . . The End. This time the Hollywoodized achievers are the Tuskegee airmen, the first black aviators allowed to participate in combat – in this case, appropriately enough, against those immortal bogeybots and inhuman emblems of racism, the Nazis, who, of course, are in for a “good ol’ Georgia ass-whoopin’” when they encounter the Red Tails. These valiant warriors have not only to defeat the Germans, however, but must also vanquish racism on their own side.

Bryan Cranston, slumming in a thankless cameo, plays the military bureaucrat unwilling to give the brothers a chance. Cuba Gooding turns in a puzzlingly deadpan and colorless performance as Major Stance, and Terrence Howard is safely poker-faced as Colonel Bullard. Whether the other actors in the film are capable of much is hard to say, considering the humdrum (nonde)script with which they have to work. “War is Hell. What we’re doin’ is just boring as Hell,” one of the pilots remarks with candor. Red Tails is the sort of movie that will have viewers glancing at the clock fifty minutes in and groaning that the film, far from winding down for a landing, is flabbergastingly not even half-over yet!

There are, of course, the obligatory scenes in which black romantic prowess receives its due and in which central character Lightning (David Oyelowo) enters an officers’ club, the piano abruptly falls silent, and one of the evil bigots tells him, “This is a whites only officers club. You’re off the reservation, pal.” Most obnoxious, however, is the constant glorification of war and particularly of “killin’ Jerries”. Only genocidal blacks and the most self-loathing whites will exult in the flippant depiction of so much joy in human desolation. There is, too, an indication that the Red Tails take special delight in shooting down white fighters when one alludes to a German’s “bright yellow nose”, a suggestive reference not only to his plane’s paint job but also his lack of melanin. After so many computer-generated explosions and social triumphs, however, the viewer may not find himself stirred to multicultural pride by this cinematic backfire, so much as grumpily in tune with the unwelcoming white officer in the club who dismisses Lightning, saying, “Hey. Go home,” and throws in a racial slur for good measure.

2 stars. Ideological Content Analysis points Red Tails toward the hatefully segregated Crap Only facilities and indicates that this film is:

7. Pro-miscegenation. An Italian ditz (Daniela Ruah) blows a kiss to Lightning, who then woos her for the remainder of the film.

6. Ostensibly Christian. Smokey (Ne-Yo) carries a picture of “Black Jesus.” Whether this is simply to indicate that the historical Jesus was black or is instead a satirical jab at segregation, under which blacks require not only separate facilities, but also a deity of their own, only Black Jesus can say for certain. Not all of the pilots believe in the supernatural, however. (cf. no. 1)

5. Drug-ambivalent. Easy (Nate Parker) has a drinking problem. Smoking, however, gets a free pass, with Cuba Gooding working a pipe in picture 1940s style. Lightning smokes a cigar and Smokey appears to chew tobacco.

4. Statist. “You signed up to follow orders.”

3. Anti-racist and egalitarian. Skeptical whites are repeatedly forced to come to terms with the ability of blacks and say things like, “I guess there’s more to you coloreds than I thought.” The separate but equal doctrine extends to the military and receives a critique from Colonel Bullard, who, lobbying for more expensive equipment, says, “No more hand-me-downs. If you get us new planes, we can help your boys.”

2. Pro-war. The mutual mass murder politely termed war is as usual a noble enterprise, particularly when directed against unprogressive white men and when it serves as a vehicle for civil rights at home. The war effort even receives a spiritual endorsement: “Black Jesus, we thank you for bringing Red Squadron back home to us.”

1. Black supremacist. “We are on the side of God Almighty,” Red Tails boasts. “Hallelujah, the saints are marchin’ in,” proclaims one Red Tail as he enters the fray.

Advertisements