Apparently it is not politically correct or film-savvy to like "Red Tails," the latest film about the barrier-busting World War II African-American fighter pilots who came from Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama and proved to the world that "courage has no color."
"Red Tails" is not going to be a critic's darling. It is a Hollywood movie that hearkens back to a day when war films did not show soldiers getting blown to bits. It pays homage to a period of history and a certain group of men. It is deliberately a history lesson, and yet it is also an action film.
Movie poster found here.
So there will be a lot of folk who blame it for not being what they want it to be.
But all that doesn't really matter. What matters (at least to me) is that stepson, who is 13, an airplane technology expert, and as cynical and world-weary about movies as a person his age can be, gave it two thumbs up.
Stepson was not interested in the metacontext of the film or the Black History Month themes (though he has decided to do his report for the month on one of the Airmen in the film, Ray "Ray Gun" Gannon). He thought that the flying and the fight scenes were mostly believable and exciting. He liked the story and the dilemmas it presented.
He even gave an analysis of the heroism of the story that made me sit up and listen.
There are two main characters in the story, "Lightning" (Joe Little, played by David Oweloyo) and "Easy" (Marty Julian, played by Nate Parker). "Lightning" is the risk-taker, the one who breaks all the rules, the daredevil, the glory-seeker. "Easy" is the calm, responsible flight leader, who internalizes all his anger and ambivalence and feels he cannot live up to his father's expectations.
Over dinner, the family discussed whom we thought was more heroic. I said that "Lightning" was the hero. He was the one that made the big splash. He had a romance with a beautiful Italian woman. He was the most proficient fighter, he got the most glory.
This is the Greek view of a hero, the view of the heroes of the "Iliad." The ones who are the most outstanding, the most bigger than life, are given the fame and remembered. Achilles falls into this category.
But stepson was having none of it. "Easy is more heroic than Lightning," he said. "He looked out for his men. He was the one who made sure the wounded pilots got home safely."
For this young man, a hero is the person who serves others and not himself. In other words, a role model.
"Red Tails" is an unqualified success, therefore, in at least one household in America.
Me? I liked all the characters and hated having to wait to see if they would all survive. I understand all the critics' criticisms, about shallowness and broad brush strokes. But it didn't stop me from leaving the film with wet cheeks.
Is it good art? I'll leave that to the critics. Is it good myth? Go see it, and judge for yourself.