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Midway – Movie Review

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Midway – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

The attack on Pearl Harbour was a major turning point in World War II, as it was the act that finally spurred the United States to join their allies. Midway shows not only the attack itself, but also the planning and execution of the battle that followed. Director Roland Emmerich has clearly done a lot of research into the subject when it comes to mounting this dramatization. The best parts are when we see the strategizing from both the American and Japanese sides, as they figure out the necessary course of action. However, Emmerich does go a bit overboard with the war scenes as he goes big and Hollywood with them.

The comparison most will probably make will be to Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour. That film actually ended up being Bay’s most restrained film. Emmerich has a similar history of crafting explosion-heavy action blockbusters and that does come through in the various attacks and battles seen in Midway. The attack on Pearl Harbour, which opens the film, goes heavy on the bombast and spectacle. While the event was certainly loud and chaotic, the entire sequence overdoes everything. The titular Battle of Midway is also a barrage of airplanes, shooting and bombs dropping that becomes an onslaught on the senses.

Where Midway does work is in showing the strategy as the Americans tried to figure out how to retaliate for Pearl Harbour. While the film is an ensemble, Patrick Wilson’s Lieutenant Commander Edwin Layton is at the centre of the scenes where the Army tries to find the best way to respond to these attacks. His use of code breaking is especially important and is properly conveyed to the audience. He’s also the most fleshed out character in the film. Emmerich shows plenty of respect towards the individuals who attempted to predict what the Japanese would do next. There is also a bit of time granted towards the soldiers’ concerned wives back home, with Mandy Moore getting the most screentime.

Midway does have to divide a lot of time between the various participants, so some do fall into the trap of becoming familiar archetypes. With that said, the actors are able to embody their roles, even with the obvious dialogue they’re required to say. Aaron Eckhart, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid and Nick Jonas especially make the most with the small, but essential roles they’re handed. A lot of the other pilots and soldiers do end up melding together as we get plenty of the young soldiers and the veterans who have been at this for a while. The dialogue can occasionally fall into the cliché lines we have come to expect from war films.

Roland Emmerich has clearly put a lot into Midway and some of the things he does well almost make up for some of the flaws in the film. The pacing could have been a little better, although it makes sense that a lot of ground has to be covered. Thankfully, there is a lot of respect shown towards these men and the bravery they faced going into Midway and the uncertainty whether they would come out alive. We do get the standard “what happened after” information at the end of the film, complete with photos of the real people, which is a solid tribute to these soldiers, admirals and lieutenants. The film as a whole could have used more restraint in the war scenes, but Emmerich’s heart was definitely in the right place when he set about directing Midway.

Stefan Ellison

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