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Blu-ray Review Red Tails Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, May 21, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Matt Hough
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    The story of the Tuskegee Airmen has been told in quite a few documentaries, so rather than taking a docudrama approach to the narrative material here, Anthony Hemingway’s Red Tails humanizes their heroic story by concentrating on four core characters as we follow their paths during their eye-opening participation in the history-making final year of World War II. There are some narrative glitches in the storytelling, but the war drama is so strong that it easily sails over any bumps when the story moves away from its focal story to dwell on some personal time away from the airfield.

    Red Tails (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
    Directed by Anthony Hemingway

    Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Year: 2012
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 125 minutes
    Rating: PG-13
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 25.00

    Release Date: May 22, 2012

    Review Date: May 21, 2012

    The Film


    After being given token war duties that don’t utilize their expertise as real pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen of the 91st Division are finally assigned a real combat mission due to the efforts of their determined commander Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard). After performing stupendously in Operation Shingle, the bigoted Army Air Corps head Col. William Mortamus (Bryan Cranston) is forced to allow the division to join with other squadrons to become the 322nd Fighter Group whose missions involve operating as cover planes for bombers liberating Italy and then on into Germany. The airmen are finally given decent aircraft (from falling apart P-40’s to brand new P-51’s) as they must meet and attempt to match the newest thing in German aviation, jet fighter planes.

    The John Ridley-Aaron McGruder screenplay has a massive job on its hands to cover the lengthy journey toward respect that the Tuskegee Airmen make, not only in gaining legitimacy in the air but in dealing with rabidly prejudiced soldiers, both enlisted and officers, on the ground. Gradually their talents as expert, intelligent pilots win over some of their harshest critics, but the script doesn’t have time to really delve into that aspect of the story as much as it should have. Instead, we’re given some rather random glimpses of the pilots (Marty "Easy" Julian (Nate Parker) has a drinking problem, Joe "Lightning" Little (David Oyelowo) has fallen for a local Italian girl (Daniela Ruah) and proposed, Ray "Junior" Gannon (Tristan Wilds) is treated like a kid) that are too brief to really resound with the viewer. For their life and death struggles to have real impact, the film would need to be twice as long. Instead, the film earns its stripes in the aerial scenes in a dazzling series of dogfights and land attacks that will get pulses racing and features (even with heavy CGI) some awe-inspiring visuals. With George Lucas as the executive producer who shepherded the film to completion after working on it for twenty years, it’s no surprise that the fight sequences are by far the film’s strongest elements.

    The film’s top two stars – the aforementioned Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. as flight coordinator Maj. Emmanuel Stance – have relatively minor roles in the actual film. Both make the most of their brief screen time, Howard in standing up for his unit against the Army’s bigoted brass and Gooding in bucking up the men’s morale and pride in their achievements even in the face of prejudice and disrespect. The men in the cockpits, however, carry most of the film’s dramatic weight. David Oyelowo has the flashiest role as the showboating, gung-ho “Lightning” who chafes against orders when he sees an enemy worth pursuing, and he displays by far the most charisma of the pilots. Nate Parker as the more by-the-book “Easy” has quiet authority though the script doesn’t give him enough to play concerning his alcohol problem. Andre Royo certainly makes his limited screen time count as mechanic “Coffee” Coleman. Gerald McRaney and Lee Tergesen as two Army officers who see the airmen as soldiers with no regard to their color also do well by their small roles.

    Video Quality


    The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Shot digitally, the film's sharpness is outstanding through most of the movie with only an occasional hazily contrasted inside shot to give the image less luster. Color saturation is nicely and consistently handled, and flesh tones are very realistic. Black levels are good but not optimal. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.

    Audio Quality


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is overall a thrilling experience. The surround channels are kept active through all of the dogfight sequences immersing the viewer into the heat of the aerial combat. Though there are some excellent pans through the soundstage, there are one or two moments where panning should but doesn’t seem to occur. Terence Blanchard’s stirring music gets a nice symphonic spread through the soundstage. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and is rooted to the center channel.

    Special Features


    Double Victory: The Tuskegee Airmen at War is a terrific documentary on the real-life story of the famous outfit whose valiant efforts in World War II belied the idea that African-American soldiers weren’t worthy. The double victory of the title, victory over the enemy and over bigotry, is discussed by several surviving airmen in this 1080i feature which runs 65 ¼ minutes.

    “George Lucas: Executive Producer” finds the filmmaker discussing his twenty-three year journey with the story to finally having it realized on film. This 1080p featurette runs 3 ½ minutes.

    “Anthony Hemingway: Director” is a 5 ½ minute interview with the director making his feature film debut with this movie after directing television for years. He discusses his dream-come-true job of working for George Lucas in the 1080p video piece.

    “Terence Blanchard: Composer” finds the composer discussing inspiration for various themes in the movie and shows behind-the-scenes looks as the score is recorded. This 1080p featurette runs 6 ¼ minutes.

    “The Cast of Red Tails is a montage of brief interviews with producer Rick McCallum introducing the following cast members: Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley, Tristan Wilds, Michael B. Jordan, Kevin Phillips, Marcus T. Paulk, Method Man, Andre Royo, Bryan Cranston, and Gerald McRaney. It runs 25 ¼ minutes in 1080p.

    “Movie Magic” briefly touches on Industrial Light and Magic’s supervision of the visual effects and its farming out CGI work to two European effects houses: Pixomondo and UPP Prague. This runs 5 ¼ minutes in 1080p.

    The second disc in the set is the DVD version of the movie.

    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)

    The thrilling aerial dogfight CGI work is reason enough to watch Red Tails, but Anthony Hemingway’s saga of the Tuskegee Airmen has enough dramatic meat to warrant a look-see, too, even if the two hour-running time isn’t nearly enough to adequately tell the full story of this amazing group of patriots. The bonus features help attenuate the movie’s lapses with excellent information in a thorough documentary on the subject.

    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

  2. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

    Jun 13, 2006
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    Houston, TX
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    I'm a huge Ww2 aviation fan, and the story of the Tuskegee Airmen is a great one. I didn't care much for the HBO movie because it was severely hampered by a lack of flyable aircraft. However, this movie looked pretty lame to me in the trailers. The CGI looked like one of the flight simulators I play. But this review makes me want to check it out. I've read some reviews that suggest the filmmakers were going for a sort of dated quality as would be seen in a vintage film like, say Fighter Squadron. So, I think I'll give this Blu a shot. If nothing else, the documentary on the Airmen sounds great.

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