Monday, January 23, 2012

Movie Review: Red Tails

I was ready to love "Red Tails," the big-budget tale of the Tuskegee Airmen that premiered over the weekend after a rush of hype kicked off by George Lucas' appearance on Jon Stewart's show.

I liked it. Didn't love it.

The aerial combat scenes are viscerally engaging, and some shots in non-combat scenes are so beautiful that I wanted to press a pause button so that I could drink them in more fully.

But the story didn't move me emotionally the way that I believe the film's makers wanted it to. I blame the script for that, because it lacks one of the most basic and essential ingredients for an adventure film: a protagonist.

When you finish watching a movie with a great story, you want to tell somebody about it, and you start off saying something like, "It's about this guy who..."

While I was watching "Red Tails," I kept trying to figure out which guy the movie was about. Early on, there was a scene showing the arrival of a new recruit, and I thought, "He's the one - he's the guy whose point of view we'll stick with for the rest of the movie." By mid-movie, he virtually disappears.

Others at different points seem to be kind of sort of like protagonists, but never get there. I left "Red Tails" feeling that it wasn't about anybody in particular, only about the Tuskegee Airmen as a group.

I am not discussing the film's historicity because I don't know enough about the Airmen to judge it on that score, and because I never expect much from movies by way of historical accuracy.

I may go to see "Red Tails" again with friends or with a group because it is the focus of so much attention. I would rather go see it again because it's great.

In the interview with Jon Stewart, George Lucas said that as he worked on putting "Red Tails" together, he realized that the story he wanted to tell was too big for one movie, and that what we see now is the "soft middle" of a trilogy whose prequel and sequel will surpass it.

I hope so; I still want to fall in love.
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