Just in time for African American History Month, the recently released "Red Tails" is a terrific film based, somewhat loosely, on the exploits of the Tuskegee pilots who fought the Nazi Luftwaffe (air force) during World War II. The film, which uses John B. Holway's book "Red Tails Black Wings" as it's source, is about the 332nd Fighter Group, African American USAAF pilots stationed in Italy during 1944, as they, under the command of Colonel Bullard (Terence Howard) and Major Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.), try to overcome such trials as outdated aircraft and racism from other squadrons, and see some actual combat.
The film main focus is on the pilots, especially their squadron leader, Captain "Easy" Julian (Nate Parker), who has to cope with both his personal demons and the reckless behavior of his best friend and fellow flyer "Lightning" Little (David Oyelowo). Meanwhile, Colonel Bullard has to deal with ignorant generals back in Washington who don't think "negro" pilots are competent. Things look up when the squadron finally gets new aircraft and is ordered to support American bomber planes on their runs, but will internal conflicts (including one pilot's possible eye injury) tear the men apart?
Historical content aside, "Red Tails" has some genuinely exciting and suspenseful aerial battles that'll keep you on the edge of your seat. There's a sappy romantic subplot between Lightning and an Italian woman (Daniela Ruah) that kind of slows down the narrative, but the main story of how the 332nd overcame the obstacles they faced is much more compelling, not just because it's true, but also because it highlights the actual bravery and heroism of these brave pilots. Director Anthony Hemingway, screenwriters John Ridley and Aaron McGruder, and especially exec producer George Lucas (who may have reshot several scenes during post-production) are to be commended for bringing this inspiring story to the screen.
"Red Tails" (the title refers to the tails of the 332nd's planes, which they had painted red, to stand out) is still playing in Stamford and other areas. Check it out if you get a chance.