A story based on true events this film is based on a 1925 study that stated blacks were not fit for combat. As the film starts out with an air battle going on we get to experience some great special effects but when the writers take over much of the remaining story gets a bit lost and jumbled between so many different characters. In Italy 1944 a group of young black men known as the Red Tails, Marty ‘Easy’ Julian (Nate Parker), Ray ‘Junior’ Gannon (Tristan Wilds), Samuel ‘Joker’ George (Elijah Kelley), Declan ‘Winky’ Hall (Leslie Odom Jr.), Leon ‘Neon’ Edwards (Kevin Phillips), Joe ‘Lightning’ Little (David Oyelowo), Andrew ‘Smoky’ Salem (Ne-Yo), David ‘Deke’ Watkins (Marcus T. Paulk) and Antwan ‘Coffee’ Coleman (Andre Royo) are under the command of Major Emauelle Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr) with one purpose in mind which is to fight for their country. One problem the U.S. white military does not believe they know how to fight due to their stupidity. As the story unfolds we discover that like most times the government was wrong and the Red Tails eventually proved it.
The Great Tuskegee Experiment may have failed due to Negro intelligence and the government wanted to shut their all black military operations down. Thanks to Colonel A.J. Bullard (Terence Howard) the Red Tails were not closed but rather got the opportunity to prove themselves worthy by actually flying and fighting. They not only proved themselves capable to fight alongside white military but did so honorably during Operation Shingle. Junior, one of the smallest members of the group ended up getting hit but survived with loss of vision which did not kill his spirit. Although when the men are sent on a new mission to protect American bombers on their flight, the commands from ‘Easy’ led Junior into trouble leaving ‘Lightning’ to accuse ‘Easy’ of being under the influence of alcohol. A problem ‘Easy’ faced throughout his entire time of command.
The story tries to take some other direction when ‘Lightning’ falls in love with an Italian woman, Sofia (Daniela Ruah) but it never really develops and lacks any emotion up until the final end. Points were made throughout the film about the black fighters not being treated equally as whites especially when ‘Lightning’ entered into a white officers club for drinks soon told to leave and called “nigger”. This band of brave men in the 332 Fighter Group began to turn things around eventually being respected by fellow soldiers whether black or white. It’s a shame that the color of one’s skin ruled the way society treated them calling Negro men in the army “colored”. A word not appreciated nor accepted by the Negro population then or now. The definition of colored would label white people more appropriately since when “angry they turn red, envious they turn green and when scared they turn yellow” so it seems that black is black but white has many variations of color.
Some men get captured, some men die but all the men in the 332 Fighter group fought hard for their country with high regards for a job well done. Even when the Germans obtained jets the group of Red Tails fought side by side to protect all mankind no matter what shade of color their skin may have been.
The direction of the film seems to cover a bit too much never really telling let alone expressing a true finished side story. It seemed like the writers tried to center their attention on too many men rather than taking two or three main characters and developing them. Grant it ‘Easy’ and ‘Lightning’ seem to take the main focus of the film but not enough to make them the true leads compared to all the other actors. The writing for the most part is well done especially in exposing the mistreatment of black men in society back in those days. Except for the air fights the film tends to drag making it a bit tiring and overall a half hour too long. The air fights in between the dialogue help but just not enough to totally keep your interest in the story. Albeit I did tend to learn quite a bit about the black men that fought so hard to protect our freedoms then and continue to do so today but thankfully equally side by side with all men of any race.
Howard is probably one of the best actors in this film with Oyelowo pulling up a close second. Ne-Yo just so happens to be one of my favorite musical artists who tends to hold his own as the character ‘Smoky’. The majority of the Red Tail flyers did a nice job portraying their characters but for a few here and there they struggled to bring realistic believability to some of their scenes. I’d have to say I enjoyed the education and the special effects but the dialogue in between seemed to lack substance and real feelings. Written with mixed emotions about this film, giving it one and half paws out of four by Jon Patch.