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Red Tails Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Surround 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 English Descriptive Audio, French (Quebecois )Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 125 Mins.
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 22, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:2/5]
The Film
[Rating:1.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:1.5/5]

Red Tails could have been an excellent document of an important moment in history; the inauguration of the first black squadron of fighter pilots during World War II, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who were given the chance to fight for their country and proved their mettle, intelligence, and skill with exceptional performance under pressure. It makes for a rich well of material from which to draw, allowing not only for introspection and a reconsideration of history, but spectacular aerial acrobatics through modern CGI effects. Unfortunately, it’s rather sad that, just the mere mention that George Lucas was involved should have been enough to raise red flags and sound the alarm bells that Red Tails wasn’t going to be anything powerful or memorable.

The intent was good – the cast consists of a virtual who’s who of young and veteran black actors in Hollywood today and director Anthony Hemingway (TV’s Fringe, TV’s CSI: NY, TV’s Falling Skies, TV’s True Blood) was brought in to helm the production. Well intentions, however, can only take you so far. This screenplay from John Ridley and Aaron McGruder is atrocious and Hemingway’s direction just makes matters worse.

The lack of character development for each individual pilot piles on top of the poor direction to craft insultingly vague stereotypes of the African American of the 1940s, from language to dress – the hustler, the drunk, the jesus freak, the white-woman chaser, the showboat. But, lest you think that the black characters are the only ones stuck with paper-thin exposition, the Nazi pilots they must battle are even worse. They snarl and spit out monosyllabic slurs in German that could have come from a propaganda reel or an episode of Hogan’s Heroes.

Terrence Howard (Colonel A.J. Bullard) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Major Emanuelle Stance) do their best to bring a sense of weight and decorum to this wayward production, but even they seem at a loss at times – simply going through the motions, ready to get out of this mess.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

A series of Canon EOS digital still cameras, the 1D Mark IV, 5D Mark II, and 7D, on top of a Sony were utilized for their ability to capture video in 1080p/24 for the production of this “film.” Additionally a Sony CineAlta F35 cinematographic HD camera was used. The result, as you can see in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p transfer from Fox, is one that doesn’t look very film-like at all and really lacks the complex shadings, wide contrast and textures one gains from either film or simply using a true cinematographic HD camera all the time. With that said, I did not notice the serious issues with aliasing that I have seen in other, more low budget productions that have used the Canons exclusively such as Tiny Furniture. Perhaps, considering there is a heavy amount of CGI work going on here, they somehow managed to scrub all evidence of that out or the Canons were used very sparingly.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is good, but nowhere near as bombastic as I expected a high flying World War II film like this to be. Sure, there are some big explosions that go off with a mild bump and a bit of whizzbang gimmickry pulled with the sounds of bullets flying across the room during the dogfight scenes, but there could have been much more done here with the roar of engines and, panning across the front and so forth. With that said, the dialogue is clear during all the action and the excellent score steeped in 1930s and 40s Americana, not unlike the golden years of Aaron Copland, from Terence Blanchard shows great dynamics and is wonderfully balanced into mix.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

There’s so much more to be gained from watching the hour-long documentary about the Tuskegee Airmen that is provided as a supplement on this disc than there is to be gained from the the film itself, it’s almost saddening. Outside of that, however, the supplements consist of typical interviews and production featurettes where the actors, crew, and George Lucas all pat themselves on the back for a job well done, when really, they shouldn’t be.

The supplements:

  • Double Victory: The Tuskegee Airmen at War (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 01:05:47)
  • George Lucas: Executive Producer (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:26)
  • Anthony Hemingway: Director (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:30)
  • Terence Blanchard: Composer (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:06:15)
  • The Cast of Red Tails (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:25:11)
  • Movie Magic (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:12)
  • DVD

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:2/5]

Skip it. I really cannot emphasize that point much more. There’s not much to redeem this failed attempt at telling an important story. For a better docudrama about these fine veterans, checkout the HBO film, The Tuskegee Airmen instead.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:2/5]
The Film
[Rating:1.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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