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Midway review - gung-ho heroes battle moribund script | reviews, news & interviews

Midway review - gung-ho heroes battle moribund script

Midway review - gung-ho heroes battle moribund script

Roland Emmerich spent decades getting this film made, but why?

Stoical: Etsushi Toyokawa as Admiral Yamamoto, the Japanese commander

Director Roland Emmerich has been trying to make this movie since the 1990s, and battled hard to raise its $100m budget from individual investors. But why? The result is an old-fashioned war film in praise of the heroic American servicemen who defeated the Japanese fleet in the battle of Midway in 1942, which turned the tide of Japan’s imperialist expansion in the Pacific, but while it sticks diligently to the historical facts, it feels bizarrely out of time and out of place. It doesn’t reinvent the war movie, as Spielberg did with Saving Private Ryan or Christopher Nolan did with Dunkirk, and nor does it deliver new revelations about the Midway story.

Emmerich has bags of action-movie experience after making blockbusters like 2012 and Independence Day – though he isn’t the only one who wishes he hadn’t made Independence Day: Resurgence – and technically at least, Midway delivers a solid dose of computer-enhanced action sequences which should entrance wargame aficionados and historic-aircraft junkies. An early sequence in which Lt Dick Best (Ed Skrein, pictured below) simulates an emergency landing on an aircraft carrier by switching off his engine and not using any flaps, as preparation for the kind of emergency liable to occur in wartime, is a neat little show-stopper, with Best lobbing the plane up over the ship’s bows just as it seems he’s crashed in the sea.

Battle sequences include numerous death-or-glory air attacks by both sides, with blazing aircraft tumbling out of the skies amid storms of anti-aircraft fire, and Emmerich’s team have taken pains to make the aircraft look like the real 1942 machines rather than fobbing viewers off with a job lot of old American planes painted different colours (the method used in the 1970 Pearl Harbor film Tora! Tora! Tora!). It’s a three-for-the-price-of one deal too, because Emmerich has bundled in not only a depiction of the Pearl Harbor attack but also a brisk reconstruction of the retaliatory air raid on Tokyo carried out by Jimmy Doolittle (a fleeting cameo by Aaron Eckhart).

But none of this can erase the sense that Midway’s square-jawed characterisations and gung-ho stars-and-stripes mentality feel irrelevant in our era of globalisation, cybercrime and fake news. The cast, including Woody Harrelson as Admiral Nimitz, Dennis Quaid as bellicose Vice Admiral “Bull” Halsey and Luke Evans as Lt Commander Wade McClusky, have scant opportunity to do anything with the utilitarian dialogue and cliched scenarios, while the wives are merely required to bite their quivering lips and stand by their men as they set off to war. Etsushi Toyokawa plays Japanese commander Admiral Yamamoto with the unblinking stoicism of a stone buddha.

Computer wizardry aside, this would have been a splendid wartime morale-booster 70-odd years ago, starring John Wayne or Errol Flynn. Now, with attitudes to war, patriotism, national identity etc in a very different place, it just looks weird.

This would have been a splendid wartime morale-booster 70-odd years ago, starring John Wayne or Errol Flynn

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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