Dan's Review: "Midway" an Accurate Account of a Very Significant Battle
Nov 08, 2019 09:36PM
By Dan Metcalf
Luke Kleintank and Ed Skrein in Midway - © 2019 Lionsgate.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of war violence and related images, language, and smoking.
Starring Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Darren Criss, Jake Weber, Brennan Brown, Alexander Ludwig, Tadanobu Asano, Keean Johnson, Luke Kleintank, Jun Kunimura, Etsushi Toyokawa, Brandon Sklenar, James Carpinello, Jake Manley.
Written by Wes Tooke.
Directed by Roland Emmerich.
War movies have a tendency to embellish or glorify certain things and strip away others. A good example of this trend is the 1976 film Midway, starring Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook and a host of other “Golden Age” Hollywood types on the tail ends of their careers. It was a fine film for its era, covering the basic history of the Battle of Midway, fought in 1942 not long after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The special effects predated Star Wars and other innovative films, so the 1976 version relied on a lot of actual WWII footage (not necessarily from the Battle of Midway), edited together with scenes from other movies (like Tora! Tora! Tora!). Some of the main characters, however, were contrived along with a superfluous romance between one of the US Navy pilots and a Japanese American woman on the verge of being sent to an internment camp. The latest Midway film hits theaters just in time for Veterans Day this week and is a much more honest and thrilling depiction of what is widely considered to be the most important naval battle in history.
The film picks up with the attack on Pearl Harbor, following Lt. Commander Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) and his involvement as an intelligence officer who was familiar with Japanese naval strategy, and was acquainted with Admiral Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa) some years before the war. After the attack, Layton works under Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) to plan the Pacific war strategy. The bulk of the movie follows fighter pilot Lt. Dick Best (Ed Skrein) and his various missions up to and including Midway, along with his wife (Mandy Moore) and other pilots, including Lt. Commander Wade McClusky (Luke Evans), Lt. Clarence Earle Dickinson and other crewmen (Nick Jonas, Keean Johnson). The rest of the movie wanders between the preparation for the battle and a sidebar retelling the raid on Tokyo led by Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart). When the opposing forces converge on the Midway atoll in June 1942, an intense air and sea battle begins, resulting in heavy losses for both sides and an unlikely American victory, defying the odds that heavily favored the Japanese.
Midway is not a perfect movie, but it is a nearly perfect depiction of the Battle of Midway, using the real stories of the real heroes that fought in the great conflict. Ed Skrein’s performance in the leading role comes across a little distracting and intense at times, while other characters are set aside as somewhat insignificant side players. I suppose this was intentional because there were too many Midway heroes to give all of them their due. Another setback when depicting such an elaborate moment in history is all the minutiae of military planning and implementation of battle. Such things might be a little tedious for non-military buffs.
Even with its sometimes clunky execution of the facts, the battle scenes in Midway are incredibly exciting and intense, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats until the dust settles. Some of the special effects feel a little overdone at times but help give weight to the significance of the battle.
Being a World War II buff and having studied this great battle, I really enjoyed Midway and was very impressed by the movie’s historical accuracy. When you realize that the characters you see on screen were real people who really fought this great battle, you can also appreciate their service and heroism, going up against such great odds. Something else I appreciated about the movie was the way Japanese leaders and warriors were depicted. Unlike other war movies, these men are portrayed with due reverence for their sacrifices and heroism in defeat.