A Brief Look at Critics’ Reviews of “Red Tails”


All right, so there seems to be some sort of disconnect between what critics say about Red Tails and how viewers perceive the film. Now, I can argue that there’s a conspiracy behind it, but I don’t have any evidence to prove it nor do I actually believe it to be true. What I can say for sure is that the disparity IS there. I’m hardly in a position to describe why, but what the hell, I’ll ask it anyway. Why are critics bashing this film?

Since I don’t have the answer to this question, what I can offer is my critique of the critics’ reviews. What exactly are they saying about this film? Well, let’s start with acclaimed critic Roger Ebert*. He says, “The dramatic scenes on the ground in Europe don’t have much substance, although there are effective scenes showing bureaucratic infighting at the top of the Air Corps’ chain of command.” Let’s break this down. No weight to Easy’s (Nate Parker) struggles with alcoholism, Junior’s (Tristan Wilds) passion for flying despite his injuries, and Lightning’s (David Oyelowo) stubbornness with being the best pilot in his unit? Really, Ebert? It wasn’t like the writers introduced these insights for the sake of adding it. Their characterizations had a purpose, and it served to move the plot points along: Screenwriting 101. Amy Biancolli** from the “San Francisco Chronicles” states, “What’s missing is any hint of realism…[with] cartoonish…lines spat out by supporting characters so wooden and hokey [,] they sound like those Stormtroopers from Lucas’ ‘Star Wars.’” Overlooking her grammatical mistakes and her misconception of what character development entails, what frustrates me most is Biancolli (among many other critics) missing Red Tail’s tone. It’s an action war film of the 1940s with a 1940s feel. It’s supposed to have the cheesy subplots and corny dialogue. It was never meant to be a modernization of the pilots’ battles but a sense of the era through its story.

Now, is the film perfect? Of course not. The writers did pack in way too much for its 2-hour duration, something Lucas himself says he struggled with when conceptualizing the dozens of stories he wanted to share (and surprise, surprise—he wants someone to develop a prequel and a sequel). Junior’s prison sequence, for example, could have been cut out completely. And yes, there was overacting, especially by Oyelowo. But overall, this film deserves a lot of praise. Red Tails has a lot of heart, and the characters were charming (I caught myself smiling a lot), something a lot of action films miss.  And it baffles me that so many critics are hammering it down. What did you guys think? Do you agree with the critics’ reviews?

I’m throwing in the trailer again. I love it! —“From the last plane, to the last bullet, to the last minute, to the last man, we fight…” What a great moment.

And I can’t find the screenshot of Oyelowo standing by the window with Daniela Ruah hugging him from behind, but that is an incredible shot that inspires me as a director. I can’t wait until more screenshots get online so that I could share it with you guys.

*Check out Ebert’s full review here: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120118/REVIEWS/120119986

**Check out Biancolli’s full review here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/19/DDUA1MR383.DTL

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