Red Tails (Blu-ray)

May 30, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

It’s been seventy years since World War II and I’m perpetually amazed at how much influence it still has on our daily lives. Granted, the men who fought in the war are dwindling in numbers as the days pass and maybe it takes a movie like Red Tails to really show us how far we’ve come in that short amount of time. To be honest, I’d not really heard of the movie, only seen a brief preview of two and knew that Cuba Gooding Jr. was in it (where has he been hiding). Truthfully it’s much more than that and if you’ve seen Glory then I can say that this is the World War II equivalent…except with airplanes. There are, no doubt, tons of stories and each and every man has one to tell. The recent miniseries The Pacific is evidence that we can still take a fresh point of view on events that happened in the South Pacific in the 1940’s. Enough of the history lesson, though – let’s fly!

Red Tails is basically a re-telling of the Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of black pilots that were fighting for the right to fight in the war. They weren’t mistreated, rather given “odd jobs” as opposed to any combat missions. But they had Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrance Howard) in their corner fighting for them. The story focuses on the ensemble cast that were the “Red Tails.” We meet Marty “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker), the leader of the group who deals with his stress by drinking. “Lightning” (David Oyelowo) is the lady’s man who finds comfort in a young Italian woman. And then there’s Major
Emmanuel Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.), the “tough but fair” commander who wants nothing more than to see the men succeed. This begs the question…will the Red Tails ever see combat or are they destined to fly pointless missions as the war rages on?

Given that this is a movie based on historical fact, we all know the answer to that question but Red Tails does manage to tell the tale in an entertaining fashion. For those that don’t know, Mr. George Lucas was the Executive Producer of this movie and it might not have ever seen the light of day if it weren’t for his clout. Lucas doesn’t get that involved in too many projects, but this one appealed to him. Looking back, the film certainly wasn’t bad though it did somewhat play into the stereotypes that we’ve become so accustomed to seeing. Every member of the unit had some sort of characteristic be it a rebel, someone with a unique way of speaking and so on. Is it inspirational? Yes. But it’s not that “stand up and cheer” kind of inspirational that the trailers would have you believe. Still, the movie has several young actors that I’m sure we’ll see much more of in the future.

Video: How does it look?

Red Tails comes to Blu-ray looking just as we’d expect – glorious. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image has a few faults, but by and large the transfer is what HDTV’s were made for. Detail is amazing, the little nuances in the planes, the soldier’s uniforms and the definition in the hair and skin really stood out. Colors are very natural, but tend to sway more towards the more natural hues. Contrast and black levels are rock solid and only a few instances of some jittering in the sky detract from what is an otherwise rock solid transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

I was wondering when I looked at the box (before I realized that Lucas was involved) why it was a THX certified disc and then it finally hit me (I’m a bit slow). I don’t think that certification really means what it used to, but having it stamped on the box does still mean something. That said, the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack does pack a punch. There are several dogfights in the air and the surrounds kick in to really immerse the viewer in the scene. Vocals are crystal clear and solid as well. It’s a great example of sound and with George Lucas involved, it’s really no surprise that this sounds so amazing.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Though no commentary track exists, there are enough supplements of note to make this disc worth owning (or at least watching). We start off with “Double Victory: The Tuskegee Airmen at War.” Running at just over an hour and narrated by star Cuba Gooding Jr., we get an hour long documentary of the airmen from their time in boot camp up until after the war. There are also several surviving pilots interviewed. This is a must watch. “George Lucas: Executive Producer” is basically just bowing down to the man. He describes what got him interested in the project and its history. “Anthony Hemingway: Director” is essentially the same thing – we see his involvement with the project and the cast meets several of the Tuskegee Airmen. “Movie Magic” shows the efforts it took to re-create WWII on screen and the CGI involved. “Terrance Blanchard: Composer” is basically just that, how the film was scored. Finally we get “The Cast of Red Tails” is actually pretty robust. We get interviews with the cast and crew as they tell their connection to the film, their roles and what inspired them to do the project. A standard DVD is also included.

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