Inspired by the true story of World War II’s first African American Air Pilots called the Tuskegee airmen, Red Tails is a thrilling action-packed film telling an untold story. A story that proves friendship, camaraderie and discipline are eternal lessons that we must all learn to be successful in any area of life. The film’s ensemble cast includes Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrance Howard, David Oyelowo and RnB singer Ne-yo.
I settled down into my seat and prepared for the highly anticipated movie starring some of my favourite actors. The film begins in 1941 and goes straight into an exciting, fast paced scene five minutes into the film. As the pilots fly around bored, combating rival trains and enemy ground transport, the group realize they are never called for frontline battle and are forced to fly worn out planes. A train is spotted below and they begin to fight them off leaving me at the edge of my seat and feeling emotionally attached to ‘our’ team, the Tuskegee airmen. Each pilot has different personalities and come from different walks of life but are united by the same desire to fight for their country and prove very early on they are not willing to back down.
The Tuskegee airmen were selected as an experiment aimed at testing “coloured personnel” to become combat pilots but at a time of serious segregation and the belief that these men lacked the intelligence needed to fight dangerous battles in the sky, the authorities dogged their every move and did everything they could to shut the operation down close to not giving them a second chance. Set in Italy, Red Tails shows the story of brave, ambitious young males who want nothing more than to fight for the freedom of their country. But at a time where racism was still very high, ‘negroes’ flying battle were not seen as a sensible option.
Colonel A.J Bullard played by Terrance Howard is like the ‘Martin Luther King of the Air Pilots’ and defends his Airmen strongly. His speech in the film depicts the struggle for a black man to fight his ground against white authorities that are not interested in changing their outlook in life. The fight is not easily given up and Colonel Bullard demands better planes and a chance to actually prove themselves in a ‘real’ frontline battle.
The wish is reluctantly given and in 1943, the group are finally called for battle to provide air cover for a landing operation. The men prove just how brave they can be in the first ever raid against Berlin with the most realistic dog fights ever to hit our screens. The crew were awarded new P-51 Mustangs planes painted with distinct Red Tails which were feared by the enemies and respected by the allies. Between 1943-1945, the Tuskegee Airmen flew thousands of missions and shot down more than a hundred German aircraft. Individual silver stars and awards were achieved finally proving that they are capable if the chance is given.
The emotional core of the story belongs to Joe ‘Lightning’ Little played by David Oyelowo who is the bravest of them all and does not agree with every order he is given. Courageous, brave and determined to fight by any means necessary, he pushes boundaries whilst flying and continues to inspire his team. The film is not all about action and a love story emerges as Lightning falls in love with an Italian woman Sofia and with very little communication possible, the two fall in love and are set to marry. The danger these men face everyday however is not forgotten and proves how devastating they can be.
Director Anthony Hemingway describes the film as a ‘celebration of life, a celebration of breaking down barriers and ultimately celebrating the real lives of the Tuskegee airmen’. To be as true as possible to the Tuskegee experience, Anthony decided it was best to have all the actors take part in a strenuous boot camp including flight training and swimming pool tests to really understand what it was like to be an Air Pilot. The input of the surviving Tuskegee airmen who have gone on to become entrepreneurs, educators and community activists was also crucial and were on set for the duration of the film making process.
Not really being a fan of war films and too much action, I was happy to see this film includes humour, incredible characters played by a fantastic cast, love and a true insight to history without feeling like a history lesson! I was moved by the realistic truths of the time, the very realistic flying and the bravery needed to be able to fly such dangerous machines in battle. Red Tails shows how we can overcome obstacles such as racism with pure excellence, friendship and determination. Whatever age, gender or race, this film is sure to inspire anybody to aspire to greatness and believe that anything is possible…
Watch the trailer below…
Released in UK Cinemas nationwide June 6