Directed By Roland Emmerich
Starring – Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans
The Plot – The film centers on the Battle of Midway, a clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during WWII. The film, based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, tells the story of the leaders and soldiers who used their instincts, fortitude and bravery to overcome the odds.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of war violence and related images, adult language and smoking
– Strong direction. Yes, this is me complimenting the very same man who helmed garbage like “The Day After Tomorrow” or “Godzilla (1998)”. I guess experience has finally humbled Emmerich, who’s traded in cheesy comedic banter and logically stretched moments of possibility for in-depth, respectful storytelling to honor these soldiers of war from every possible angle. Roland capitalizes on the patient dissection of a rumbling war and behind the scenes strategy, to illustrate how pivotal each measure of informational gain played in each side’s movements. The one mistake he still makes is his extreme propaganda for America, often overlooking pivotal mistakes in policy for moments of heroism. However, I can’t blame him too much for loving his country, especially considering “Midway” is arguably his finest film since “Independence Day”, and proves that he can still offer compelling filmmaking when it stems from a historical outlet.
– Wide scope. One surprisingly pleasant aspect of the storytelling is it honors people from three different sides; Americans, Japanese, and soldier wives, to not only prove that each of them equally sacrificed, but also to keep the dimension of variety constantly churning out something fresh to add to the developments. In the case of the Japanese enemies, it’s especially refreshing to see a movie that establishes a lot of honor, even in motivations that are primarily sinister. It depicts them as being every bit as human as their American opposition, full of the very same fears and risks taken to get one step up. I love a war movie that equally builds both sides towards an inevitable destination of confrontation, and thanks to these side-by-side comparisons, it’s easier to understand that even despite their political differences, they are a lot psychologically closer than people ever could’ve imagined.
– Riveting war sequences. The special effects are right on their mark here, using reputable green-screen designs and computer generation in planes and artillery that maintain a quality of believability despite the over-indulgence of each. The color coordination is naturally resonant in duplicating the clean design of mid-20th century visuals, but the real story comes from Emmerich’s anxiety-riddled editing, which preserves the same vulnerability and tension that is persistent within the heat of the moment. It could be considered choppy by all accounts, but I feel like the frequency of cuts better adds to the conveying of the detection within the barrage of firepower, as well as working as the best rival against predictability that this film rarely fell victim to.
– Immersive sound mixing. This was going to be included in my war sequences section, but deserved its own mention for the level of articulation that remains a constant throughout the film. The best kind of sound designs are often the ones that allow you to close your eyes, and still mentally illustrate what is going on, despite not being able to see it. The volume is perfect without being obviously amplified, the direction duplicates the air attack in all of its zooming teleportation, and the tremendous reach is infinite during sequences with a wide scope, where as much as hundreds of ammunition and planes are flying in-and-out of frame at any given second. Good sound mixing is pivotal in a war movie, but for one whose dominance exists in the air, it’s a chance to vividly render much more audible presence in the echoing atmosphere.
– Stretching ensemble. There’s a big name celebrity behind every corner, but it’s the work of the film’s youth that especially dazzled me, and presented a few surprises in actor’s who are usually the weakest element of the movie they star in, but are given a role to sink their teeth into here. In that aspect, Ed Skrein and Luke Evans give the best performances of their young careers. Skrein plays a cocky pilot whose Jersey accent is only exceeded by the on-screen growth that evolves his character throughout, giving him a commander role when the numbers are never in America’s favor. What Evans lacks in personality, he more than makes up for in bravado and courage, giving us insight into the desire of American soldiers who were eager to play their part in the war despite not having a lot of experience with the assigned aircraft. Beyond this, there are appearances from Mandy Moore, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhardt, and of course Patrick Wilson, rounding out a presence of big name talent that still prove Roland as a reputable director who many seek out to work with.
– Mostly factual. The facts tend to get strewed in war films like these, but Pearl Harbor enthusiasts have elaborated that this remake of the 1976 original maintains the level of accuracy to make it an educational watch in addition to an entertaining one. Obviously the movements are the truthful side, with the conversations and strategy being understandably ad-libbed. Emmerich clearly has a great respect for this pivotal moment in American and Japanese history, so much so that he maintains the real life names and accolades that made each of them a decorated hero of war, as well as one of many pieces that added up to this bigger picture of success that they each played a hand in. Finally, the film gives us on-screen text at the end of the film to further elaborate on where each of them ended up, and it just makes you appreciate and want to seek out as many historical reports on these people because of your time spent with their adaptive renderings.
– People make mistakes. As to where typical war movies preserve these godly character soldiers who never miss a target, I appreciated “Midway” because it took time to show the many misses that further cement their human qualities. This is something so unimportant to the integrity of the film, but something that I have to appreciate because it plays so wonderfully into the urgency of the scene’s dynamic, spinning what’s originally expected in a way that allows us to feel the disappointment of the character in focus. There’s a tragic aspect to this, of course, considering more lives are lost the longer the target goes unblemished. This too pertains to the urgency factor for obvious reasons, and overall takes something so nuanced, and virtually unnoticed, and makes it the catalyst for the bigger changes that are inescapably prominent.
– Characterization. There’s so very little of it throughout this film. In fact, some characters are never given any personality except the ones expressed by the familiarity of the big name actors that we’ve come to expect, giving us no chance to understand and comprehend their noticeable quirks that add a level of detail to their depiction. There’s rarely any opportunity to experience these people in their element without the war, and this takes a devastating toll on character investment to each particular narrative, never earning the kind of empathy that the screenplay so heavily calls upon.
– Audible problems. This comes in the screenplay and post-production, which manufactured no shortage of noticeable cringe opportunities aplenty for the audience. First up is the horrendous A.D.R, which more times than not stretches these mouth movements in a way that makes them painfully not sync-up. As to where you will catch a bad audio deposit once or twice every movie, I found no fewer than six different examples of dialogue that simply didn’t add up, compromising an 80 million dollar budget for no excuse. The other problem is with the dialogue itself, which is a collage of inspirational quotes and movie jargon 101 that we’ve heard in every single Emmerich movie to date. It’s so recycled and glamorized up for movie purposes that it often has trouble maintaining the grounded in reality quality that the film has going for it.
– Too long. 130 minutes isn’t one of the top ten longest sits for 2019, but if you reach that long for your movie, it better have near-flawless pacing within it, which is definitely a problem with this movie. After kicking it off with an impactful opening sequence detailing Pearl Harbor, the film remains grounded for an ambitious amount of minutes, choosing instead to analyze what has already happened, instead of moving forward on the attack. Beyond this, the second act has nearly no action as a whole, replaced by training sequences that can’t even compare to the gripping pulse that Roland entails during his action scene execution. For my money, the strategy could be narrowed down a bit, making this film 105 minutes, all the while losing none of the story or factual importance along the way. At times, it’s a bit too difficult of a sit, and will only fully appeal to history buffs looking to learn about every side, on and off of the field of battle, to war strategy.
My Grade: 7/10 or C+