Red Tails (2012) The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen Re -Told

Maybe it’s good to watch bad movies in order to be able to appreciate the good ones more? With that premise in mind, I’d say, Red Tails is highly effective. Still I find it deplorable that it couldn’t be any better and at the same time, I don’t know why this had to be remade. The 1995 TV version The Tuskegee Airmen is really good, I liked it a great deal and although it is sentimental in places it’s not as corny as Red Tails. Geroge Lucas’ justification for this remake, according to an interview,  was CGI and that the use of it allowed him to show the dog fights like they haven’t been shown before. Maybe but…

The story of Red Tails, unlike the older version of 95, starts only when all-black fighter squadron 332 is already in Italy and waiting for an important assignment. Although highly trained and some of the best fighter pilots the US Army has, they aren’t allowed on important missions. All they do is shoot trains and small targets. The frustration is high and when they are finally given the opportunity to escort a bomber crew they are happy and do an oustanding job.

If you’ve never even heard of the true story of The Tuskegee Airmen, Squadron 332, then you will find it very interesting. Even a notorious moaner like Spike Lee approved of this production which may not be surprising as his Mircale at St. Anna has one of the corniest endings ever.

What’s my problem then? There were many.

Foreboding – It’s handled extremely heavily, no casualty or twist was not foreseeable from the beginning.

Music – This was one of the wost scores ever. Too much, all of the time and in some instances some weird techno type music which may appeal to a CGI crazy generation but is highly unrealistic in a WWII movie.

CGI – Overdone and tacky looking. I didn’t find it convincing at all.

Cast and Characters – Many of the actors did a good performance but not Cuba Gooding Jr. He dragged the movie down and was responsible for more than one unintentionally funny scene. He grimaced his way through this movie, it was painful to watch. His attempts at looking like an authority figure which he tried to achieve smoking a pipe, didn’t work at all.

Back story – There is no back story and I feel that’s really missing. the TV production took much more time and is therefore more efficient in its anti-racism message.

Emotion – As corny as it was, it wasn’t moving. I was very moved when I saw the 1995 version but this one left me cold.

Love Story – An awfully, awfully, trite and forseeable story.

Racism – I felt it only touched on the main topic of racism because, as mentioned above, the back story was cut off. The CGI and the silly love story detracted from it. Furthermore the atmosphere of the military in Italy was also shown better in the TV version.

I won’t deny that roles for African-Americans in war movies – and other movies – are sadly scare and this movie certainly offered a great opportunity. Notably many actors known from TV shows like The Wire got a chance to perform in this. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is an important story for African-Americans, something to be really proud of. Being excellent and doing your job better than anyone else despite being ridiculed and not taken seriously is no small feat. Still, I can’t help it, I would have preferred if it had been a good movie.

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Act of Valor (2012) US Special Forces Against Terrorists

Not long ago I reviewed the French movie Forces Spéciales – Special Forces (here) and so it was only natural I would also watch Act of Valor sooner or later, especially since The War Movie Buff pointed out that they sounded similar. I find it particularly interesting now that I have seen them both, to compare them and that’s why I will post a comparison in a day or two.

Act of Valor tells the story of a group of Navy Seals (played by real Navy Seals) sent to rescue a CIA agent who has been abducted. She was investigating the connection between two men, a drug dealer and a known terrorist.

Contrary to what was expected at the beginning, the mission isn’t over after the agent has been freed. They realize that what is behind her abduction is far bigger than what was initially seen. As a matter of fact, a group of suicidal bombers, wearing explosives which cannot be detected by any metal detector are about to enter the US. They will be posted in every major city. The damage they will cause, will be far worse than 9/11.

At this point in time, the team splits and we follow first those who try to capture the drug-dealer and then the others trying to capture the terrorist who tries to enter the US via Mexico and the help of the drug cartel.

Maybe this sounds confusing but the story lines are told in a seamless way. The action sequences are astonishingly well done. We really get a feel for the incredible gear, techniques and tactics. More than once I was thinking “Who would want to mess with men like this?”. Not only do they have the best equipment, they are also trained for every eventuality and react amazingly quickly.

It is very important to re-emphasize the fact that the men are played by real Navy Seals. This is a great plus in the action sequences. Those men know what they are doing and it feels very realistic and is fascinating. But there are dialogue scenes as well and unfortunately they drag the movie down. They are too bad. Every time two of the main characters have one of their buddy talks it’s painful to watch. They are wooden and the way they speak sounds learned by heart and unnatural.

Despite some of the reservations mentioned before, Act of Valor is a highly watchable movie. We don’t get to see such exciting missions with so much realistic detail, different weapons and tactics very often. And it’s a valuable and interesting movie as well. It’s interesting because it shows that nowadays war doesn’t mean that one army will fight against another army, but that it is far more frequent that smaller groups of men will fight against other groups of men. A lot of the fighting takes places indoors or in smaller villages.

I can see thow many people will have a problem with a movie like this, saying it is glorifying, patriotic etc…. Maybe all of this isn’t wrong. I still think it’s not only an entertaining movie but an important movie because it offers a great basis for discussions and offers the layman a look into the job of a Navy Seal.

It seems that the individual missions in the movie are all based on real missions. There is one element that really astonished me. One act of amazingly unselfish heroism. If that is true as well…

As I said, Act of Valor has a lot in common with the French movie Special Forces. I am strongly in favour of one of the two movies and I do have my reasons for that. If you are interested to find out which one and why, make sure to read my next post.  It’s due in a day or two.