Red Tails: a Film Critique Essay

“We have a right to fight for our country. The same as every other American. ” Colonel A. J. Bullard (Imdb , 2012) The film I picked for my critique is Red Tails, a historical World War II drama. The movie starred Cuba Gooding Jr. , Terrence Howard and Gerald Mcraney, was written by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder, better known as the creator of the comic strip “the boondocks”, from a book by John B. Holway, directed by Anthony Hemingway and produced by George Lucas .

In this paper the author will show how all elements of filmmaking come together to make Red Tails a memorable experience and a great American movie. First let us familiarize ourselves with the story; Red Tails is set in 1944 Italy where a group of black pilots fight for the chance to prove their combat worth, overcoming racism and other obstacles. Red Tails is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all- black squadron in the United States Army-Air corps. The writers strive throughout the film to maintain accuracy of real events while also making it as entertaining as possible.

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Mister Ridley and Mister McGruder do a wonderful job of storytelling showing the struggles of these men who want nothing but to be able to fight for their country, bringing the audience along from joy to despair and back again. This was done due to the ability of the writers to access the official flight logs of the unit, and interview the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen. The reality of characterization and dialog is accomplished by using 1940’s lingo and slang, an example of great dialog that could come from the era before civil rights is “When you get upset, when you get mad, you turn red, right?

When you get envious, or sick, you turn green. When you become cowardly, you turn yellow; and ya’ll got the nerve to call us colored? ” uttered by Leon ‘Neon’ Edwards played by Ne-Yo. According to our text the actors’ job is to act and make their characters believable (Goodykoontz ; Jacobs, 2001). The actors in this film are prime examples of the craft, watching them interact you forget you are in a theater or at home watching a movie, and believe that you are with these people on an airfield initially.

This makes you feel like these are real people and not just characters, and that is the ultimate goal of an actor, to lose yourself in a character making him real. The actors in Red Tails do a phenomenal job of this, bringing the men of the Tuskegee experiment back to life after 60 plus years. Examining examples of the outstanding acting, we would have to start with the great job of the Leading man, if there were one, Terrence Howard as Colonel A. J.

Bullard, the commanding officer who fights against racism at the Pentagon his superiors for the chance for his men to have a chance in battle. Other great acting jobs were put in by character actors David Oyelowo, as the go for broke, glory seeking hot shot pilot Joe ‘Lightning’ Little, who also has one of the side stories with him falling in love with an Italian girl, and Bryan Cranston as Colonel William Mortamus, a racist pentagon officer who does all in his power to keep the squadron from being able to prove themselves.

The next element of the movie we will examine is the cinematography, “Cinematography includes the fundamentals of producing motion pictures, including the use of effective light, accurate focus, careful composition (or arrangement), and appropriate camera movement to tell stories”(BSA, 2012). Red Tails cinematographer is John B. Aronson whose credits also include Beethoven’s 3rd, Barely Legal, and Moscow Heat, as well as several television shows and video games (IMDB, 2012).

On Red Tails he does an excellent job of capturing the look of 1940’s Europe and the battle scenes are filmed so beautifully the audience is pulled into the cockpit as the pilots fight for their lives, feeling the pressure of the moment and becoming a part of the action themselves. An example this beautiful cinematography the takes place near the beginning of the movie in a battle scene between the risk-taking “lightening” and a German battleship The shot setup of the Regular scenes also shows a genius in the subtle touch of drawing in the viewer.

This is best exemplified by a long slow roll over the Italian countryside as “Lightening” drives to meet his love. Overall Mister Aronson and his crew do a fantastic job in the visual effects of this movie, making it enjoyable to watch. The next step after shooting is editing the film; this means that “Video editing is the process of manipulating and rearranging video shots to create a new work. Editing is usually considered to be one part of the post production process” (Unknown 2012).

The editing job on Red Tails was handled by Ben Burtt and Michael O’Halloran. The team does an outstanding job of taking the breathtaking shots of the cinematography team and putting them into chronological sequences giving the film the look and feel the director intended. This is especially evident in the battle scenes such as the aforementioned plane versus battleship where the editors cut between the cockpit and the ship showing the determination of the pilot as well as the frenzy of a battleship in action.

Another great editing job is in a battle scene that takes place after the pilots attack a German ammo compound where one pilot is captured and another is injured with a damaged plane. The scene shifts between the capture and the pilot fighting for his life,and then the flight commander trying to help the wounded pilot back to base. The editing shows both the character of the commander and the wounded man as they fight to return to the airbase, going from desperation to hope and back effortlessly.

The editor a great job that adds to the audiences overall experience of the film The sound engineer’s job is recording and mixing voices, music and sound effects for movies, television, radio, the music industry (Unknown, 2012). The sound crew in Red Tails’ job is executed wonderfully, with no problems or glitches that I could find. From the sounds of the planes in flight to the explosions of dropped bombs, we are in a World War II bombing raid.

The dogfight scenes with the sound of the engines whining and the bullets flying through the air and striking the side of the planes are all authentic putting the viewer in the seat of the plane. The music though subtle, sets the mood perfectly from the heart racing battle scenes where the music serves to pump you up to the suspenseful wail as a wounded pilot struggles not to crash; the music sets the tone and emotions of the viewer and helps them escape into the movie. The director of Red Tails is Anthony Hemingway ,and this was his first major film project ,as such he hit a home run on his first time out.

His style on this film was pretty much just straight storytelling, as it is too much of a collaborative effort to be considered auteuristic style. He used his experience as a second director on many films and television shows, as well as an actor to get the most from his staff and cast. Although the Reviews were mostly negative, I believe that Mister Hemingway does an admirable job of getting his view across; this is even more astonishing when you consider it is his first major directing job.

He brings a personal touch to the material, like it was a part of him, thereby making the viewer care about the subject. The film takes place at a time where racism was rampant not only in the military, but also through the entire United States. It shows an ugly unsavory part of our society that unfortunately we still live with . Red Tails shows us where we have been and opens dialog on how far we have come and how far we still have to go, to believe Thomas Jefferson’s words that all men are created equal.

It takes this subject which is often pushed into a dark corner and shed light on it’s a white man born and raised in the Deep South in the 1960’s and 1970’s I have lived with this type of racism my entire life and this film made me think of all the bigots I have met and their reasons that blacks or Hispanics are inferior, reasons that even when I was a kid I knew did not hold water. The impact of this film is in busting the ignorant views that one race is superior to another. Once the movie has finished filming, it slips into a specific genre or type of movie. Red Tails is considered an action –drama.

The word drama is defined as” a play, movie, or television production with a serious tone or subject” (Merriam-Webster, 2012). This is considered a drama because of the very serious subject matter of racism and the struggle to overcome it . let us now consider the definition of an action movie according to the dictionary it is ”the unfolding of the events of a drama or work of fiction : plot (3) : the movement of incidents in a plot” (Merriam-Webster, 2012). The action in this movie is mostly battle scenes, and spectacular aerial shots. The movie also contains a romantic subtextwith the romance between Lightening and an Italian woman.

When doing the analyzing a film there are several types of valid approaches that critics use (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2001). For Red Tails this writer used the dualist approach , identifying the conflicting groups of the racists that do not want the pilots to succeed and the pilots themselves who only wanted to fight for their country. In using this approach we see the racists as evil and unrelenting, coming to the conclusion that racism is wrong and all men are equal. Finding the meaning of the film and the directors view. Proving the film is about the struggles of race in America.

When taken altogether the work of the different departments combine to complete the picture, each step adding a layer to the ultimate finish of the film. They all work together to fulfill the vision of the director, and given life to the words of the writers. The cinematographer sets the tone by establishing the look of the feature the editor cleans it up, and the sound crew catches our emotions and plans what we hear. In the case of Red Tails, as we have seen all elements came together to make not only a great American movie, but also a memorable experience for the audience References: Boy Scouts of America: Cinematography, BSA Supply No. 5869 Pamphlet via http://www. scouting. org/scoutsource/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/MeritBadges/mb-CINE. aspx 2012 Goodykoontz & Jacobs: Film from Watching to Seeing, Bridgepoint Education Inc. San Diego Ca. United States, 2011 IMDB: internet movie data base: Red Tails via imdb. com, United States, 2012 Editor: Merriam-Webster Dictionary, United States via http://www. merriam-webster. com/, 2012 Unknown: What is Video Editing? Media College. com, United States, 2012 Unknown: Sound Engineer: Employment Info and Requirements for a Career in Sound Engineering, http://education-portal. com/ 2012