Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding Jr. and Academy Award Nominee Terrence Howard lead a powerful ensemble cast in this high-flying epic inspired by the real-life adventures of the first African-American combat unit to serve in World War II. Italy, 1944. As the war takes its toll on Allied forces in Europe, a squadron of black pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen are finally given the chance to prove themselves in the sky… even as they battle discrimination on the ground. Featuring jaw-dropping aerial action and thrilling special effects, Red Tails is a breathtaking tribute to the unsung heroes who rose above extraordinary challenges and ultimately soared into history.
2012 – Certificate 12 – American Film
Rating Details: Moderate war violence
8.5 out of 10
When I was young I was kind of obsessed with aeroplanes. In particular, those used during the Second World War. I used to read as much as I could about them, make and paint models of them to hang from my bedroom ceiling, and see them in museums and shows whenever I could. I knew EVERYTHING there was to know about them. I also used to buy as many copies of the Commando war comics as I could, (just the ones featuring WW2 aircraft, although I did occasionally stoop to reading stories set during WW1 or about gliders). In these, I discovered how the brave, British Tommy basically won WW2 on his own, all the Germans were called Fritz or Hans and all they ever seemed to say was “Gott im Himmel!” or “mein gott!”, as an RAF Spitfire or Hurricane blasted to pieces whatever bit of German engineering the unfortunate Hans and Fritz happened to be in at the time. (I think the Italians fared even worse, as they always seemed to be presented as either cowards or traitors.) A few stories were set in Asia or North Africa, but most featured Europe. Despite all this, I like to think I’ve grown up with a fairly balanced view of Germans and history. In fact I had a lovely German girlfriend for many years, until she saw sense and left me. (Somewhat ironically, the printing of the comics was moved to Germany last year.) It’s many years since I threw them all away (and seeing the price some early copies now sell for, I wish I’d kept them), but my love of the aircraft has remained. “The Battle of Britain” is one of my all-time favourite films. Sadly, there aren’t a huge number of such films and there’s not exactly a lot being made these days, so I was quite excited when this one was released. So were my childhood memories trashed by the Yanks?
This movie is two things. Firstly, it’s a drama about the first American, Black fighter pilots in WW2 and the shockingly ignorant behaviour towards them by their own side. It’s also an action film about brave, gung-ho heroes, blowing up loads of Nazi stuff. Unfortunately the two things don’t quite go together. Only someone wearing with a silly-looking, pointy white hat, (or possibly some Daily Mail readers or EDF morons) are not going to accept the point of the first element. Although it provides a framework for everything else, this isn’t really looked into in enough depth to be totally satisfying. If simply raising awareness of what went on was the point then this part was a success, (it was all new to me), but as a drama about what happened, it was a bit ‘empty’. This brings us to the action side of things. In many ways this film was a bit of an ego project for George Lucas, but given his background you’d hope it would be fun; and it is. Nearly everything was created as computer graphics and watching it on Blu-ray they looked fab. The dogfight sequences are worth watching for their own sake. The film seems to have attracted a lot of criticism, but what did people expect? It’s about as realistic as “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones”, but as a movie that bought the vibe of my Commando comics to life, it did good. For a lot of the time I forgot that most of the characters were Black and just enjoyed the sight of our heroes blasting away at all manner of Nazi hardware and personnel; trains, fighter aces, airfields, destroyers and even the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet all get blown to bits. The scrip is far from perfect and once or twice it felt more like I was watching Snoop Dogg rather than a 1940’s guy flying a plane; sometimes the characters seemed too modern. After starting with two clichéd lines of dialogue that really should only been seen in a comic book frame, it did finally produce a couple of powerfully emotional scenes towards the end. I loved it for what it is, but I can understand why it disappoints so many others.
The soundtrack is decent enough and it felt there’s an awful lot of it used.
The trailer is also decent enough, if a bit superficial.
Recommended for Second World War aircraft obsessives and war comic fans; not recommend for military historians, racists or ‘Lucas haters’.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Joe “Lightening” Little does two strafing runs over a Nazi destroyer in his P-51 Mustang. The ship basically blows up. That’s badass. For that reason alone, we shouldn’t let a little something like military realism, the ‘law of averages’ or historical accuracy spoil the action. That’s what the History Channel is for.
Once again, my ego is crushed as an epic film disappoints me. I was so totally convinced that this was a documentary about doing my Financial Plan at work a couple of months ago. Okay, so it says on the box that it was made in 1962, but I thought that was just a typo. In the old days (well last year) we used to write budget forecasts, but now we prepare Financial Plans. These involve filling in hundreds and hundreds of little boxes with numbers. (Technically they’re rectangles, but you know what I mean.) Anyway, it takes a long time to fill in all those little boxes and doing so makes me feel quite heroic, even though, at the time, it’s hell. Every number I fill in that represents income is like a shot at the evil, triple alliance of decrepit resources, job loss and bankruptcy. It’s like I’m defending Cactus World and its allies from certain doom, which in fact is exactly what I am doing. So imagine my disappointment when I found out this film was about something called the Second World War. Bloody hell, it’s not even the original, it’s just a sequel. How ego deflating is that?
1962 – Certificate: PG – USA
Rating Details: Mild Violence
There are some great war films out there; this isn’t one of them. Despite its epic scale, it somehow doesn’t feel epic very often. It has so many characters in it that you scarcely get to know any of them before we’re whisked off to meet someone else. Yet you never really get a feel for the magnitude of what’s going on, or learn anything much either. It doesn’t work as a character study film (“Private Ryan”) or a fictional documentary (“Battle of Britain”); it’s just a load of A-listers in cameos with their own little stories, few of which actually join up in any useful way. As far as the Invasion goes, all I learnt was that we were having a normal crappy summer weather-wise, the Nazi’s made loads of mistakes because they were too arrogant, the rest of us blundered about in the dark lost and the air forces from both sides basically went on holiday. It wouldn’t really matter of course, but this was a significant point in history and a lot of people lost their lives or were horribly injured, etc. They deserve something better than Robert Mitchum and John Wayne wondering about acting like gung-ho heroes; Wayne with his broken ankle and Mitchum with his soggy cigar and drug-addict eyes. I can where Captain Kirk got his inspiration from. It’s sort of annoying how it just ends too; I know it’s The Longest Day and all that, but after 171 minutes I’d liked to have had a bit of closure, but it just kind of, ends; not unlike the trailer acually.
Recommended for people with three hours to spare.
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? There were plenty of heroes in this movie, but the real badass ones are those that actually took part in this event for real. Yes, even the American ones. Ironically, modern Germany is light years away from the one depicted in this film, whereas some of us still think we’re fighting the war and running an empire. Losers.
I returned to work today after two weeks off. 336 e-mails awaited my attention. Not only that, but every time I did anything with any of them my copy of Outlook produced millions (well okay one each time then) of dialogue boxes screaming a warning at me that my mailbox was 95% full. (Thanks Bill, just one at the start of the day would have been fine.) Bloody Hell, it’s not the 3 Minute Warning, it’s just a bit of space on a hard drive somewhere, not a virus of “28 Days Later” proportions. What an overreaction it all was; I can’t stand anyone that exaggerates things. So anyway, I had in mind to now go and make a connection between this film and my hellish day on the frontline in the e-mail war zone, but somehow I can’t bring myself to do so; it’s just too much of a serious movie to trivialise it in that way.
1985 – Certificate: 15 – Soviet Union
Rating Details: Strong violence and holocaust footage
This is a bleak, bleak film. It starts off pretty depressing and then goes downhill. Take a trip alongside a youngster called Florya Gaishun, who proudly joins the Belarusian partisans (the local resistance movement) during the Second World War and slowly changes before our eyes into an aged, half-deaf, psychotic teenager, over a period of one summer. Yes, it really is as much fun as it sounds. Made in the Soviet Union in 1985, it does at times have the feel of a propaganda film, except that in those, the ‘good guys’ are normally seen as happy, courageous and generally over-achieving. In this they simply seem wretched, whilst the Nazis come across as Hell on Earth, destroying villages, stealing everything, murdering children and raping woman, whilst taking a lot of pleasure in doing so. It takes a bit of time to get going too (it’s 137 minutes long) and I found some of the editing a bit confusing, as the passage of time wasn’t always easy to gauge. It’s not Hollywood so there’re no heroes in this film. Kudos to the actors for some of what they had to go through too, wading through bogs, being shot at with live ammunition and generally having to run away from explosions and stuff. The acting, especially from the lead character, is top draw stuff. I was a bit uncomfortable about the scenes that involved some of the horses or the cow in them though; it looked a bit too much like they were being treated in entirely inappropriate ways; it might look realistic, but there’s no way that sort of thing is acceptable in a film. This isn’t an especially gory movie, it doesn’t need to be. However much gross horror and torture porn I watch, it’s films that’re based on reality that I find the most horrific. This is one of those. If you need convincing that war isn’t much fun and isn’t something you’d want to get involved with, here’s a good place to start. Probably one of the best war films ever made. It’s not exactly what you’d call entertaining, but it’s the sort of movie that ought to be seen.
Recommended for anyone that’s had a bad day and wants to put it in prospective.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? I’m not sure about this film, but anyone who lived through the sort of things depicted in it and managed to keep a sense of proportion in their lives afterwards, is totally badass.