(director: Roland Emmerich; screenwriter: Wes Tooke; cinematographer: Robby Baumgartner; editor: Adam Wolfe; music: Harald Kloser, Thomas Wanker; cast: Ed Skrein (Lieutenant Dick Best), Patrick Wilson (Edwin Layton, intelligence officer), Aaron Eckhart ( Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle), Luke Evans ( Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky), Dennis Quaid (Vice Admiral “Bull” Halsey), Woody Harrelson (Admiral Nimitz), Nick Jonas (Bruno Gaido), Mandy Moore (Ann Best), Luke Kleintank (Clarence Dickinson), Etsushi Toyokawa (Admiral Yakamoto), Brennan Brown (Rochefort, code-breaker, Jake Manley (Willie West), Keean Johnson (Murray), Darren Criss (Eugene Lindsey), Jun Kunimura (Admiral Nagumo); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser; Lionsgate; 2019)
“An over-long, dated, old-fashioned war drama, with an overkill of digital effects and tedium.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Roland Emmerich; (“The Patriot”/”Stonewall”) helms his big budget war epic in a gung-ho manner, with plenty of aerial battles and attacks by dive bombers. It’s an over-long, dated, old-fashioned war drama, with an overkill of digital effects and tedium. It’s based on real events and characters (I might add all the characterizations are wooden) that celebrates, to a fault, the virtues of heroism, self-sacrifice and patriotism. It’s flatly written with many awkward patriotic speeches and a boat-load of cliches piled on by Wes Tooke. The writer gives us an appended history lesson on the pivotal Battle of Midway in the Pacific, that turned the tide of the war to the Americans after the Pearl Harbor shocker. Midway took place on June 4, 1942 and lasted for three days before the Japanese fleet retreated from the underdog American fleet. We earlier see Pearl Harbor under attack, in a bloodless reconstruction of the Japanese plane strafing of the docked American fleet in December 1941.
Each one dimensional character stands for something he does, and that’s about the depth of their depiction. The two main lead characters are the earnest Navy intelligence officer Layton (Patrick Wilson), who on the intel from a code-breaker (Brennan Brown) advises the humble newly appointed Admiral Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), in charge of the Pacific Theater, on when to attack the Japanese on Midway. The other hero featured is the personalty-free Lieutenant Dick Best (Ed Skrein, British actor who talks with a questionable New Jersey accent), who is the cocky and abrasive Navy dive bomber pilot, stationed on the carrier USS Enterprise, who is supposedly a good fit for this war–one rival officer says, he’s the reason America will win the war.
The middling director, with an eye for detail and the spectacular, gives us plenty of explosions but nothing new to think about. He crows that real men overcome their fears (showing us how airman Murray (Keean Johnson) overcame his to be a wing-man) and fight for their country and its democratic ideals. That the good military wives, like Dick’s loyal wife (Mandy Moore), fully back their husbands. Lt. Colonel Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart), the flyboy Army hero, who promised revenge for Pearl Harbor and delivers his promise by bombing Tokyo, and the tough guy admiral, Bull Halsey (Dennis Quaid), is taken out of action for the Midway fight because of shingles but redeems himself off-screen with acts of heroism on his return to duty.
Hey, this sentimental goo could have been a lot worse: Michael Bay could have directed it.
REVIEWED ON 7/11/2020 GRADE: C