“Red Tails” Soars into Box Office

Domestic Total as of Jan. 29, 2012: $33,780,000 (Estimate from Box Office Mojo)

By Sylvia Obell, Managing Editor

“Red Tails” is an extraordinary tale of courage, bravery, and strength that is inspired by the equally extraordinary story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

During United States’ involvement in World War II the Tuskegee Airmen were formed as the first African-American aerial combat unit. Unlike the 1995 HBO movie “The Tuskegee Airmen”, “Red Tails” is set in 1944 Italy when WWII is already in full swing.

Despite the fact that these men heeded the call to serve their country, they still had to deal with the prejudice laws and attitudes of the very nation they were fighting to protect.

The story centers on the unit’s plight to prove that African-Americans did not lack the courage, discipline, and intelligence to be fighter pilots, as was the belief at that time.

Three major things stick out about “Red Tails.”

Let’s begin with the outstanding group of black men that made this movie. Behind the scenes were some of the men responsible for the most controversial African-American shows. Anthony Hemingway (“The Wire”) directed the film and the screenplay was written by “Boondocks” creator Aaron McGruder, and John Ridley.

Big names like Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tristan Wilds, Nate Parker, Ne-Yo, Method Man, and more created an outstanding ensemble of African-American actors.

Each brought so much personality to their character; you couldn’t help but get attached. If Nate Parker didn’t have you convinced he was a force to be reckoned with after “The Great Debaters”, he confirms it in “Red Tails.” I found his performance quite compelling, and boy can that man give a speech. If you didn’t have goosebumps after his “We Fight, We Fight, We Fight,” chant then something is wrong with you.

Though Parker was amazing, in my opinion, the standout performance goes to David Oyelowo. The new face did an amazing job playing the arrogant and disobedient, yet loving and loyal Joe “Lightning” Little.

The next thing that stood out was the beautifully put together story. You’ll laugh, cry, feel anger and joy, but most of all you’ll leave the theater feeling inspired. Allow me to speak as a black woman for a moment. Movies like this make me proud to be part of such a strong people.

The film reminds my generation why we need to be proud of who we are. It reminds us to look at the generations of our grandparents and great-grandparents with admiration and respect for all they did.

It inspires us to create a history that can leave our grandchildren feeling equally as proud.

All of these sentiments had me leaving the theater wondering why I’m not able to leave a movie feeling this way more often.

It’s not like African-Americans don’t have tons of amazing stories to tell. Which leads me to the last thing that stuck out about the movie: the ironic parallels between the actual movie and the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Both had to overcome adversity despite being almost 70 years apart.

The movie tells the story of how the Tuskegee Airmen proved to the entire U.S. Air Force that black men were not only equally capable of fighting in combat, but that they could be exceptional.

They had to fight for the opportunity to get real missions and once they got them those brave men met every challenge that was assigned by “lighting up the scoreboard,” as Terrence Howard’s character so confidently put it.

Then, 70 years later “Red Tails” executive producer George Lucus has to take the huge risk of funding and releasing the movie entirely on his own because no Hollywood studio would believe in an all African-American cast.

It is a sad truth that shows how others view our star power as a race when it comes to motion pictures. This weekend was, in essence, “Red Tails” first “fighter mission.”

Like the Tuskegee Airmen, the movie has everything to lose if it doesn’t exceed Hollywood’s already low expectations for it. If this movie doesn’t “light up the score board” it can be ages before we see another big-budget African-American movie.

That being said, I encourage all ages and all races to go see this film. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is something everyone should know as well as enjoy.

-Smobell@ncat.edu and follow us on Twitter @TheATRegister

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