We see Edwin T. Layton (Patrick Wilson – Insidious) an intelligence officer who actually predicated the attack on Pearl Harbour told to try and decipher what the Japanese are going to next, while Admiral Chester W Nimitz (Woody Harrelson – Natural Born Killers) is called in to orchestrate the counter-attack despite him calling it an ‘impossible situation.’ The film largely concentrates on the events after Pearl Harbour and follows pilots like Dick Best (Ed Skrein – Deadpool) and Wade McClusky (Luke Evans – Dracula Untold) as they prepare with the retaliation attacks that include The Battle Of Midway as a finale.
If you aren’t aware of the various battles of World War II your first reaction to the trailer of Roland Emmerich’s (Godzilla) Midway is probably didn’t they already do a movie about Pearl Harbour? They did indeed, Michael Bay (Transformers) directed the very under-rated Pearl Harbour back in 2001, but while the attack on Pearl Harbour is shown in Midway it really is only a small part of the story that Emmerich is trying to tell here. Let’s just say that the Pearl Harbour attack is pretty much done and dusted in the first twenty minutes of the film. Emmerich’s film almost feels like a ‘companion piece’ to Bay’s film.
The biggest difference between Midway and Pearl Harbour is that while Bay went for a huge epic spectacular Emmerlich’s film feels more like a history lesson with a dramatised re-telling. The Japanese influence on the film is very easy to see. Not only do we get to see more of the story told from the Japanese side of the battles through the eyes of Commanders like Tamon Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano – Thor) and Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa – Love Letter) but a lot of the CGI and action sequences look a lot like you would expect to see in some of the Japanese action films that receive cinematic releases.
That style maybe a little off-putting for some audience members. You may find yourself wondering why a director who has movies like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow under his belt is serving up a film with fake CGI fire, but in the end that is a stylistic choice but it does further the feeling that the film is a historically correct re-telling rather than just there for entertainment.
Perhaps the biggest fault with the film though is that it tries to cram too much in. With some many characters introduced you really only get a chance to connect with a couple with the whole storyline involving the raid led by Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart – The Dark Knight) feels rushed and brushed over when realistically it is interesting enough to have a movie of its own. Likewise Emmerlich quickly shows us John Ford (Geoffrey Blake – Forrest Gump) shooting his film at Midway but then it just seems to disappear into thin air.
With that all aside though Midway is still very much a watchable movie. Screenwriter Wes Tooke’s (Colony) screenplay does allow the audience to get close to characters like Dick Best and Wade McClusky while Emmerlich’s knack for suspense really goes to the fore during the actual battle sequences. Here Emmerlich recreates that same feeling that we got from watching films like Flyboys and Top Gun as the focuses on the amazing dog-fights and death-defying dive bombing that many of the pilots found themselves involved in. This is very much a film where it is the action sequences in the finale that really saves it from becoming an average film. What is also good to see during Midway is the fact that some under-rated stars really do get a chance to shine here. Ed Skrein and Luke Evans are amazing here, there is real chemistry to their love-hate relationship on the screen and as you watch the film you find yourself wishing that both men got more roles where they are the leading men. Woody Harrelson and Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow) are both at their brilliant bests while Patrick Wilson often steals the scenes that he is at he portrays a man shattered by the events of Pearl Harbour but then given a chance of redemption. Again his character is another that deserves a film of its own.
Midway seems to be a movie that is better suited for the serious movie lover who will enjoy a movie that is more about historically correct then it is being there for entertainment. The film does explore all the ins and out of the Battle Of Midway but may leave you feeling like you do want to know more about some of the characters involved. Certainly worth seeing though for its dog-fight scenes alone.