MIDWAY (2019)

  • Release Date: 08/11/2019
  • Cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Mandy Moore, Luke Kleintank, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, Etsushi Toyokawa, Tadanobu Asano
  • Director: Roland Emmerich

The Battle of Midway was the most important conflict of World War II for dominance over the Pacific Ocean. After annihilating the US fleet at Pearl Harbour six months earlier, the Japanese planned to land one decisive blow that would not only incapacitate the Americans in the Pacific but would also open doors for the Japanese to target American Costal cities. They had planned well for the attack and wanted to surprise the Americans just like they did at Pearl Harbour. This time around, however, The Americans were a step ahead of them and had successfully broken their communication codes to know the exact time and location of the attack. The Japanese were relying heavily on their idea of how the Americans would retaliate and this proved to be their greatest undoing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Midway is a story that deserved a big-screen treatment and I was excited for this film even though it was not garnering good reviews. That is something that I have now come to expect from all Roland Emmerich films but if truth be said, the man has never failed to entertain me no matter how over the top and historically and factually inaccurate his films might have been. In this film, Roland Emmerich takes us through the Pearl Harbour attack, the Doolittle Raid and then finally The Battle of Midway. It must be noted that each of these three conflicts is worthy of being treated to a film apiece. Sadly, Emmerich glides over the three conflicts giving us only a bird’s eye view of the stories and keeping them as flimsy as possible. Interestingly though, he throws in a lot of information on us assuming that we know their genesis. That I believe is not the case for most casual movie buffs or Indians like me.

Emmerich once again devotes a lot of time on actors essaying real characters who are pedestrian. Ed Skrein enacts Dick Best, one of the biggest heroes of that war and he essays him with such a lack of care for the real character that he started getting on my nerves within the first 15 minutes of him making an appearance. Having the character say deep things about war and loss to his wife doesn’t help the matter unless one forms a connection with the character. That is something mainstream directors like Emmerich need to learn and learn fast. We have Dennis Quaid, another Emmerich favorite essaying William ‘Bull’ Halsey, a seminal war hero with such discomfort that I wished he was murdered by the Japanese. The only two likable characters in the film are Woody Harrelson as Chester W. Nimitz, The Admiral of the Fleet tasked with fighting the Japanese onslaught and Patrick Wilson as Edwin Layton, the man whose team has broken though the Japanese communication code.  

Wes Tooke is credited with writing the film and he should have known better to have written dialogues that were a lot less cheesy. Here the dialogues are so over the top and sometimes mindless that it is impossible to take the characters seriously. If only they knew how to conduct a conversation without being overly dramatic and this would have been a film ages better than what it turns out to be. Emmerich tries to give us a peek into all the three major conflicts mentioned above and in trying to do so ends up not being able to cover any one of them in a manner that it deserved being covered. After the Doolittle Raids, we follow Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) as he escapes from Japan occupied China. Atleast 5-10 minutes are spent in this and I couldn’t understand what it was for as it had no bearing on what the film was about. The same may be said about all the chit chat and family moments that the other players are shown involved in. On the contrary, it would have been a better film had it just stuck to a documentary-style approach to the actual story it set out to tell and give us a deeper and more laid out view of the Battle of Midway alone.

Having said all that, I still enjoyed this film for a few things. The action sequences are done pretty well. The fact that I didn’t care much about any of the characters did liquidate its effect but I cannot deny that the sheer magnitude of the conflict was brought out in the battle sequences with enough physicality and gusto to make us stand up and take notice. The fact that the visual effects are top-notch and the artwork was impeccably in place helped the cause of the film. I believe subsequent viewings might point to flaws here and there but those can be forgiven. I cannot vouch for the factual and historical accuracies of the planes, ships, uniforms, etc involved but they all looked great on the screen. The dogfights were done with aplomb. The editor must be given credit to have cut together these sequences in a manner that doesn’t take away anything from the haphazardness of war and yet lets us have a firm grip on everything that is unfolding on the screen. Midway is a beautifully shot film and even though there is a lot of use of CGI it doesn’t lose its likeability in terms of the visual aesthetics.   

Midway is entertaining. I have to give it that. I wanted to love this film and I did for a period once the action started but for the reasons mentioned above, it never reached its true potential. The film has visual flair on its side and the sheer power of the story that it sets out to tell elevates it to a certain level but it should have been dealt with a lot better. For those who enjoy war films and love it just for the action that it has to offer, Midway will be the perfect weekend watch. However, it won’t impress the ones who are looking for historical insights and cinematic brilliance. 

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

 

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