Monday, January 23, 2012

Zooming to meet our thunder

Back when I was a junior in college and trying to think of subjects for either an honors thesis or a senior scholars project, the Tuskegee Airmen made my Top 3 list (the 442nd and ads between the World Wars were the other two).

Also, since my parents let us watch any historically-justified violent movie (because violence was ok, but sex was not), my sisters and I have seen almost every movie about World War II. (That's basically all we watched as kids. The one movie I have seen most in my life is The Great Escape. )

I liked Red Tails. I didn't love it, but as the war film genre goes, it's not bad (I've seen far worse). The manly bonding, predictable daredevil exploits, caricatured enemy (the one Nazi pilot was pretty bad), woman representing postwar hope ... they're all familiar.

But as a civil rights movie, it was pretty tame. The Red Tails served as escorts for (white) bombers, ensuring that they reached and bombed their targets with minimal air casualties.
While it's clear the skies are segregated, without any connection to the home front, it's a little disjointed: the characters aren't really developed outside of their unit; they rarely reference home or their pasts or their families, so it's hard to tie the storyline to any historical significance that the viewer doesn't already know. Without that connection, the movie is like any other underdog tale: scrappy unit isn't given respect but eventually proves itself after working through some personal issues and passing tests of valor. Though there are many scenes where the airmen face racism and bigotry, there are also many cheesily heartwarming scenes where white colleagues show their gratitude for the air protection the Red Tails provide. (There's also some bad acting on the part of some of the white pilots.)

And then it's sobering to realize that the Civil Rights movement doesn't reach its apex for another two decades, and that racism in the military or anywhere else isn't close to being eradicated, either.

Overall, the movie is pretty light-hearted, as many in the genre can be.

And speaking of the genre... In one subplot, one of the Red Tails is shot down and taken to a POW camp, where he takes part in an escape. The scene where the German guard patrolling the forest stumbles upon an escaping prisoner is taken almost directly from The Great Escape. (See above. The Palmer girls, we have that movie memorized.)

But my big geek-out moment (I believe I squealed in the theatre) was when I recognized Adam from MI-5 faking an American accent in the 3 minutes he's barely onscreen.

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