By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The bombing of Pearl Harbor certainly was such a shock to the U.S. government that forced their hands to get completely involved in World War II. However, the imperative and impactful Battle of Midway proved that America would not be completely defeated. The relevance of this battle definitely does deserve to be honored with an outstanding movie just as iconic as the triumphant was. Well, writer Wes Tooke and director Roland Emmerich have made a film detailing this major turning point in American history, but just doesn’t quite do the complete story justice. Midway does have its fantastic battle sequences and does acknowledge the work, strategy, and courage involved, but also uncourageously utilizes cliches and tropes in the process.
Ed Skrein stars as Naval “hot shot” pilot Lieutenant Richard Best, a brave, but reckless aviator who constantly disobeys orders and doesn’t always play well with others. After witnessing the ttagic bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dick and his flight crew soon face the reality that they are going to war against the Japanese. Meanwhile, the U.S. government and military work feverishly to make their decisive first attacks versus a formidable foe. An intelligence team lead by Lieutenant Commander Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) determines a way to decipher Japanese code, allowing the military forces to prepare appropriately. As Dick Best readies his team for their harrowing work ahead he must prove himself to his superiors that he has the true leadership skills needed to help the U.S. achieve a victory.
As one may already tell Lieutenant Dick Best, as portrayed in the film, might as well be the grandfather of Maverick from Top Gun. It is simply a case of lazy writing and character development in a vain attempt to make the movie more interesting. The thing is; this does the real Dick Best a major disservice. And this problem also occurs with other characters based on real people. The true story is fascinating and exciting enough without these hamfisted embellishments. This is what irks me the most about an otherwise gripping and engaging movie.
Tooke and Emmerich even take the time to present the Japanese government’s and military’s perspective of the conflict, but fail to develop these characters insightfully. It is simply a case of mediocre to weak storytelling that nearly gets redeemed by the development of the more realistic work that helped these servicemen win. These moments, along with the battle sequences are the best parts of the movie.
Despite an obviously limited budget, Emmerich and his team manage to create some intense and riveting dogfights that mostly look great. The pacing, cinematography and editing work well despite the occasional shots that look computer generated.
The performances of the cast run from solid to adequate. Most of these actors have given way better performances in otger films, but the writing and direction is clearly to blame. Besides Ed Skrein, who performs solidly at times, the movie features decent work by Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Dennis Quaid.
So, as for my recommendation regarding this movie, I would suggest waiting to watch it at home if nothing better is on. It gas enough going for it to not be a complete waste of time, but doesn’t have enough to deserve big theatrical dollars. There are definitely better inspirational war movies out there that pay their respects well. This one, though not completely horrible, could have been way better. Still, at least it isn’t as bad as Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor.