When I first saw the preview for "Red Tails," my reaction was, "What's the point? Why make a movie that's already out?" It wasn't until I heard all of the reasons Hollywood claimed it wouldn't do well at the show that I started paying attention to the movie and realized the original was a PBS DVD video.
In "The Tuskegee Airmen," viewers get a phenomenal cast of young actors who went on to be massively successful in the acting world. Mekhi Phifer. Laurence Fishburne. Allen Payne. Cuba Gooding Jr. Malcolm Jamal Warner III. Andre Braugher. These are the Who's Who of the entertainment industry, especially in the African-American top acting community.
In "Red Tails," viewers get some newbies with some vets like Cuba Gooding Jr. (again). Ne-Yo. Terrence Howard. Nate Parker (phenomenal acting in "Great Debaters"). Tristan Wilds. M-e-t-h-o-d Man. Then there were new faces, such as Elijah Kelley, David Oyelowo and Leslie Odom Jr.
In both movies the audience found out about the Tuskegee Airmen from the 332nd Fighter Group who fought from May 1943 to June 1945. There were 450 men who received 850 medals and 66 died. In both films there were deaths, friendships, jokes, brotherhood, racism and history. The only difference between the two is "Red Tails" got a little more personal with characters' backgrounds, such as the character with alcohol abuse issues, a character who was in love with a woman who he couldn't even communicate with due to a language barrier and a young soldier who was constantly trying to prove himself to the older guys.
Some may think that those topics would make viewers connect with "Red Tails" more than "The Tuskegee Airmen," but it didn't. Although the original was more focused on history while the other walked the lines between history and drama, both did a fantastic job of telling the bigger story. However, "The Tuskegee Airmen" did have a heart-breaking scene when Eleanor Roosevelt wanted to fly with Hannibal Lee.
One movie compliments the other. To compare the two is to compare apples with apples. Just get a bushel of both.
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