A 1925 Army War College study concluded that “blacks are mentally inferior to the white man, by nature subservient… cowardly… and therefore unfit for combat.” The men on whose lives Red Tails and Men of Honor are based set out to disprove that, but they need a leader, someone like Cuba Gooding Jr., who if he wants to, can gleefully shout, “Show me the equality,” and get people to take notice. Damned if Cuba doesn’t take the assignment to make those old, white, Army and Navy dudes look like racist fools! […]
War is hell. And until Steven Spielberg got involved, we’d never really experienced war through the eyes of a soldier. We’d come close, with filmmakers as diverse as Coppola and Oliver Stone all giving us their interpretations, but it always seemed to be at a safe distance. The viewer was taken on a journey, but not our own journey. Unlike Ron Kovic or Ben Willard, who undertake a journey for us, Spielberg attempted to give us our own experience in war without having to leave the cinema. “Saving Private Ryan,” which graphically shows us the D-Day landings of a group of US forces in 1944, opens with an assault on the senses unlike any we’d ever seen. It thrust us into the heat of battle, the confusion and carnage of an assault that beggars description. It wanted us to know exactly what war is really like.