Rarely do you find a war film that’s invigorating. These films, however artistically presented, often recall painful memories. It’s like rubbing salt to raw wounds. Director Roland Emmerich’s “Midway”, is no different. It is an old-fashioned war film about America’s victory over Japan in the Battle of Midway.
The film claims to be a true account of the war that changed the course of American History. It is dedicated to the American and Japanese soldiers who fought at Midway during the World War II.
The film follows the story of US Navy Sailors and aviators who persevered through the tragedy of Pearl Harbour and were charged in a daring combat against the Japanese at Midway, which was the turning point of the war.
The narrative begins in December 1937 in Tokyo, with a meeting between US intelligence officer Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) and Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Toyokawa Etsushi), in which they lament about the possibility of war between their two countries. This sets a mournful tone, which is quickly erased by the blitzkrieg that follows.
The plot jumps to four years later, to December 7, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy Service attacks the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour in Honolulu Hawaii. With this, the film takes you to the war, up-close and front, with wide angle lens and tight close-ups. It gives you an insight into the lives of noteworthy figures like Admiral William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid), Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), both men tirelessly working to prevent another Pearl Harbour scenario.
The other prominent figures, despite minor roles in the film, include the hot-shot, ready-to-fight pilot Richard “Dick” Best (Ed Skrein), Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart), the cinematographer John Ford (Geoffrey Blake) who came to Midway Island to film the everyday lives of sailors. There are myriads of other minor characters who embellish the narrative with their heroism.
For the Indian audience, the presence of Priyanka Chopra’s pop star husband Nick Jonas in the minor but prominent role of the aviation machinist Mate Bruno Gaido, should be of interest. Your heart does bleed for him for his attitude and patriotism.
While the first half of the film breezes through, the second half, which is about the actual strategy and battle of Midway, gets a bit tedious. The bombardment and the war sequences lack drama and appear perfunctory. To break the momentum of the war there are a few scenes with the naval officer’s wives and a song at the Naval officer’s Club Honolulu, but all this is just by the way.
Visually the film looks sterile, painstakingly manicured and perfect to the tee. The chaos of the war is missing and thus the realism factor is zero. At times the frames look like the screen of a video game with bullets crisscrossing each other and hundreds of aircrafts dogging them with little luck. The explosions are just bursts of dark clouds. The CGI, though well-designed, feels frustratingly ineffective after few minutes .
The film would have had a better impact if the director had focussed on the cryptanalyst Rochefort and the code-breakers who helped the navy succeed in their operations, for Midway is actually their story. They are the unsung heroes whose story has been neglected.
Overall, “Midway” does not tug at your emotional heartstrings. [By Troy Ribeiro]