By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
During World War II an Army Air Corps unit of African
American was established in Alabama that came to be known as the Tuskegee
Airman. Although the men were highly skilled, segregation in the Army and
distrust of the pilots’ skills based on racial bias, limited the scope of their
operations. They were also given old planes to fly and assigned to bomb sites
that had already been destroyed.
In Italy in 1944 the men chaff against orders that make no
sense. One of the men falls in love with a local girl while the others have to
spend their free time at an Italian dance hall because white soldiers won’t
allow them in their club. Fights break out.
Col. Bullard (Terrence Howard) lobbies the pentagon for new
planes and real assignments that can save American lives and help the war
effort. In Italy Major Stance (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) oversees missions, tries to
keep the men from trouble, and trains them hard, believing in their
intelligence, skills, and patriotism.
When the Pentagon finally agrees to take the Tuskegee Airmen
seriously, Bullard demands new planes and gets them. The ground crew paints the
tails red so the Germans will know whose coming.
“Red Tails” is based on true facts but the script is tedious
and the action slow throughout most of the film. Director Anthony Hemmingway
has made a fine reputation for himself for television, but here the pace is so
slow that I think such an important movie may not receive the audience it so
deserves. The writing obviously struggled
to create tension and friendship among the men, but it was so obvious it was a
cliché. The actors have so much
potential but their performances are stilted.
The final half hour of the film is where things come
together. The audience I saw it with got into it completely and cheered and
clapped, and I shed a tear or two, at
the victories of the awesome Tuskegee Airmen. This is a
worthy story even if the film isn’t flying off the screen, so to speak.
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