Midway is directed by Roland Emmerich. The film stars Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid and Woody Harrelson. This movie is not to be confused with the 1976 film of the same name.
At the beginning of World War II, America is neutral. But the attack on Pearl Harbor prompts the United States to enter the war, eventually striking back at the heart of Japan with the Doolittle Raid. Top code crackers and intelligence discover the Japanese may be plotting something bigger, however. America’s finest soldiers and intelligence alike must combine their knowledge and resources to prepare for a battle which is sure to be one of the most intense of the war, and one which could turn the tide for the victor.
There will always be war films, and that goes double for World War II films. Seeing the Greatest Generation’s achievements against the enemies of America is something which has long made for a popular subject of films. There are many hits and many misses, and no one was more skeptical than I was upon hearing Roland Emmerich (Godzilla ’98, Independence Day, Stargate) was making one. While I appreciate the movie’s widespread emphasis, including a few less talked about American heroes from the war, it ultimately falls victim to everything you’d expect an Emmerich movie to.
I always give credit to what a movie does well, and I appreciate Emmerich’s decision to focus on a few lesser known heroes of the war effort, including pilot Dick Best. You’ll see many familiar names depicted in the film, including Nimitz, Doolittle, Halsey, and Yamamoto, but I’m at least pleased to see some screen time given to less talked-about fighters on both sides.
Sadly, one of my biggest fears quickly came to fruition in Midway. It’s a Roland Emmerich film through and through. I respect the man as a director; the original Independence Day is one of my all-time favorite popcorn movies. And that’s just the problem – he’s reduced World War II to a popcorn movie. It’s a great looking film, but he’s more interested in explosions and action than telling the actual story and the politics behind the scenes.
Furthermore, the movie tries to do too much with too many people and too many plot points. World War II was a complex affair, no questions asked, but Emmerich tries to cram too much into the movie with mixed results, giving us the bare "surface" version of events. Did we really need to see Pearl Harbor and the Doolittle Raid recreated on film for the umpteenth time, when the emphasis of a movie called Midway is supposed to be, um, the Battle of Midway?
The tone of the movie is all over the place. In the talky sequences, everyone just seems bored, like they’re phoning in their performances. Even the usually charismatic and entertaining Woody Harrelson seems like he’d rather be anywhere else. And in the action sequences, everyone overacts and the tone simply goes over the top. And while I appreciate the movie’s decision to make Dick Best a major part of the story, Ed Skrein (AKA the bad guy from Deadpool) is tragically miscast, and his fake accent is cringe-worthy throughout. Not to mention his wife and child feel like an afterthought. It’s respectable Emmerich tried to make a movie covering so much of the war and this pivotal battle, but it’s too much to cram into a single overlong film which ends up feeling like mindless dumbed down entertainment
Midway isn’t a total loss, but it’s not exactly a win for World War II cinema either. It’s not the worst movie in recent years made about the Second World War (it easily beats Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor), but it can’t compete with other better-made films (Dunkirk, Darkest Hour). If you’re curious, rent it when it gets a home release.
Rating: One-and-a-half out of four stars.
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