Directed by Roland Emmerich.
Starring Luke Evans, Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Mandy Moore, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, Darren Criss, Tadanobu Asano, Nick Jonas, Keean Johnson, Luke Kleintank, and Etsushi Toyokawa.
The story of the Battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the sailors who fought it.
When a big budget WWII epic rolls around, you might muster enough optimism to think it’s going to be something more than a collection of expected clichés strung together with a script dripping with over sentimentality and rousing one-liners.
If you’re able to do that heading into Roland Emmerich’s Midway, you’re going to be sorely disappointed because that’s unfortunately all it is.
Midway accounts the true story of the battle of – you guessed it – Midway, a response by the Americans to the attacks on Pearl Harbour and turning point for the allies in WWII. If you’re still feeling optimistic, you could try to argue that it has a storyline about characters buried somewhere deep but if you’re more realistic, you’d say it’s a film that doesn’t have even the slightest whiff of character development.
The film’s lineup of actors is one which boasts a fairly impressive collection of CVs but they’re from people who usually find themselves second or third billing rather than being the headliner in all of their movies. And while everyone turns in an acceptable performance, except maybe for Ed Skrein who sports a cringe-worthy American accent throughout, it all feels a bit cumbersome. It’s like a play that the cast forgot to rehearse.
It also feels like a last minute thought to have Mandy Moore as high up on the billing and as prominent on the poster as she is, considering her role is miniscule as a concerned wife left at home. A brilliant actor when given the right projects, it feels like the marketing department realised only once the film was complete that she was in fact the only woman in the whole thing with a name or more than one line of dialogue and pumped her up the credits.
Of the few interesting things about this movie, one is that for a war film it’s actually quite two-sided. During all of the fights there’s as much from the perspective of the Japanese as from the Americans. Unfortunately this only holds your interest for long enough to realise that the script concerned itself with providing as much character development to the Japanese characters as it did the Americans.
Perhaps it’s because much of the cast and Emmerich himself isn’t American but Midway isn’t as patriotic to the US as plenty of other movies of this ilk, nor is it as sympathetic to the masses who had to endure the cost of war, no matter their allegiance. Instead it’s a very simple retelling of the incredibly dramatic events that occurred across the Pacific Ocean in 1942, only somehow without much drama.
Throughout its completely unnecessary 139-minute running time, Midway relies pretty heavily on its big visual spectacles. Audiences of any war movie expect – and probably quite enjoy – what’s to come in huge action set pieces but because the Battle of Midway was fought in the air and at sea, the film needs a lot of VFX to do the job. And while it’s executed pretty well for the most part there’s only so much you can take.
Between all that action, the dialogue scenes in Midway’s script are purely there as connective tissue instead of providing context or creating a human connection to any of the characters which should be the bread and butter of a war film.
With all of that said – there’s an audience that’ll pay their hard-earned to see Midway at the cinema because the action is well laid out (even if it’s unrelenting), the script is easy to digest (if basic and uninspiring), and the crowd-rallying calls to arms will hit the mark for plenty of people munching their way through some popcorn.
For many people, going to the pictures is about escaping into a story for a few hours even if it’s not in front of a perfectly-crafted film, packed with cinematic nuances. But Midway isn’t about escapism, it’s about indulgence. It’s a shoot-em-up video game come to life for two and a half hours that lets audiences indulge themselves in huge explosions, unfettered fighting and acts of war. I’m just not sure that’s a good thing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★