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Review: Midway

Midway
5 10

midway bannerPLOT: A dramatization of the Battle of MIDWAY, one of the most decisive naval battles of World War 2, taking place only six months after Pearl Harbor, and helping turn the tide of the war in the Pacific Theater.

REVIEW: MIDWAY is an affectionately old-fashioned war film. While directors like Christopher Nolan and Sam Mendes occupy themselves with looking for new ways to dramatize war for 21st century audiences, Roland Emmerich has made a WW2 epic that would have not only seemed old fashioned back in the early 2000’s - when war epics were de rigueur- but would have been deemed retro even a generation or so before. Heck, at one point Emmerich depicts John Ford shooting his documentary, “The Battle of Midway”, and while many view his movies as emblematic of the era this depicts, even Ford might have found this a little too “aw shucks” for his tastes.

Still, one doesn’t attend a Roland Emmerich movie unless they’re looking for bombastic entertainment and to a degree the movie delivers thanks to more than decent CGI for the relatively thrifty $100million budget (a bargain these days) and energetic action scenes, although they probably owe more to Emmerich’s ID4 than they do to reality.

Ed Skrein is an oddball choice for the lead, covering up his English accent with a gung-ho, gum-chewing way of talking that sounds like he’s trying to imitate Humphrey Bogart or John Garfield. He plays Dick Best, which is a moniker so silly that you just know he has to be based on a real guy, as no screenwriter would ever dare give their character such a name. He’s got a loving wife back home (Mandy Moore – in an utterly thankless part) but flies by the seat of his pants, not caring if he lives or dies, an attitude that doesn’t sit well with his C.O (Luke Evans – who gives Skrein just enough shit that you know they’ll be TOP GUN style best bros by the end), or his unlucky radioman, played by his ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL co-star Keean Johnson.

Despite being based on a real guy, he’s your typical war movie hero, being the cocksure guy who’s crazy – but dammit is also the best dang pilot we have! He feels more like a stock character than a real guy, being one of the big ways in which the movie disappoints. As far as pilot leads go, Skrein and Evans are the biggest names, with Darren Criss in a small part as another pilot, while Nick Jonas has two big scenes as a heroic machinists’ mate who commandeers a gun during a kamikaze attack (which is a pretty impressive sequence), although his climactic scene is phony in the most cliched Hollywood way.

The biggest names are kept pretty far away from the cockpit, in non-action roles, with Patrick Wilson as the Intelligence Officer who warned everyone about Pearl Harbor, and Dennis Quaid as the shingles afflicted Bull Halsey. Woody Harrelson does his squared jawed best as Admiral Nimitz, but seems miscast in such a straightforward part, while Aaron Eckhart gets curiously little to do as the downed James Doolittle, despite having one of the more intriguing plot threads (The Doolittle Raid would make for a pretty exciting standalone movie).

One does need to give Emmerich some credit for painting the Japanese in a three-dimensional way, with Etsushi Toyokawa’s Admiral Yamamoto and Tadanobu Asano’s Yamaguchi portrayed sympathetically as duty-bound men of honor. Some screen time is devoted to the backstage political battles between the Japanese fleet and the army, and while MIDWAY is patriotic it’s not all that jingoistic, which Emmerich certainly deserves some credit for.

Still, it’s a long haul, even for a war film. Emmerich starts the story with the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the climactic Midway battle relatively short. They could have spent the entire movie focusing on the battle rather than ramping up the melodrama (which tends to always be a mistake in war movies – the best ones like THE LONGEST DAY, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, DUNKIRK, and others are always more focused), making this an ultimately tepid and old fashioned war film. Suffice to say, MIDWAY has its moments (and a good score by Thomas Wander & Harald Kloser) but ultimately it’s one of Emmerich’s flatter efforts.

Source: JoBlo.com

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