Midway (2019) Review

The side of the Japanese Imperial Army and their unique military culture were also given fair screen time in this film. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa) of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Commander in Chief of their combined fleet, was portrayed with calm and quiet dignity. We also get to meet other Japanese officers and their own brands of leadership Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano) who commanded the Hiryu with nobility, and Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo (Jun Kunimura) whose controversial battle decisions had negative impact against the Japanese campaign.

The execution of the critical battle scenes are the main draws to watch this film. Director Roland Emmerich will always be remembered as the man who brought us “Independence Day” (1996) and “2012” (2009). Of course, there are big explosions and massive destruction here as well. The massive scenes showing fiery exploding seacraft and aircraft were rendered with crisp cinematography and meticulous visual effects to create impressive screen spectacles. The aviation scenes, particularly the dive bomber runs by Dick Best, were excellently staged, shot and edited to elicit an exhilarating rush.

You simply can’t emotionally connect to so many People. Dunkirk did it best when narrowing it down and letting us follow their journey. Instead we’re supposed to care about Ed Skreins one note character who reminds me so much of Tommy Wiseau it’s hilarious.

While Pearl Harbor was for many the opening shots of the U.S. entry into World War II; some would say that the stage was set earlier when the United States attempted to curtail what they saw as an aggressive and Imperialistic Japan by placing restrictions on their vital resources such as oil and the tonnage of their Navy.

In the new film “Midway” we are given a glimpse into this when four years before the attack, when Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) meets with Admiral Nagumo (Jun Kunimura) who lets him know that hardline factions in his government have been buoyed by their invasion of China and will do what is needed to make sure the vital oil that is supplied by the U.S. remains constant. Flash forward to the day of the attack and Layton who has warned that an attack was possible at Pearl Harbor is seeing his worst predictions come true. In the aftermath he is assigned to Admiral Nimitz (Woody Harrelson); who has been given the thankless task of taking charge of what is left of the Pacific Fleet and finding a way to stop the Japanese fleet.

The screenplay is clear and comprehensive. The origins from pre Pearl Harbor to the decisive day are clearly explained. Doolittle deserves mention. Good history lesson for some folks nowadays who seem to forget which country was defending themselves against those who waged aggressive wars! Slower moments are not dull as they are used to explain strategy, training and the role of intelligence.

The air battle scenes are thrilling yet clear. You can still see who is who. You are really put right into the center of things. Superb exciting cinematography without looking fake or too CGI.

It’s not all terrible though! Firstly, the runtime is mercilessly shorter than Pearl Harbour whilst some of the action is, on occasions, quite exciting. It’s also, for the most part, historically accurate but it was the sensitive portrayal of the Japanese that surprised me most. Unlike their American onscreen adversaries, they are not caricatures of themselves.

But none of that is not nearly enough to outweigh the criticisms, which is a shame because Midway is an important story of WW2 that deserves to be told, just like Dunkirk, D-Day, Stalingrad and the Battle of the Bulge. Emmerich was not the right man to tell this story.

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