Midway is the type of war film that was made in the 1960s, where action and adventure took a front seat, with American patriotism at the wheel. It’s an epic escapade, the likes of which is rarely made these days, and probably the type of movie that John Wayne would have been proud of.
Director Roland Emmerich’s name is synonymous with a specific brand of guilty pleasure, and blockbuster movies like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and White House Down are a testament to that. His trademark is style-over-substance and Midway is no exception, and with its gigantic set pieces and wall-to-wall action, it is said to be one of the most expensive independent films of all time. And what a sight it is to behold!
Taking place in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, between the years 1941 and 1942, Midway chronicles the period of time between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent American retaliation at Midway. Emmerich’s film follows the intelligence and command procedures on the ground as well as the sea and air efforts at the heart of the conflict.
The cast comprises a who’s who of Hollywood with Ed Skrein and Patrick Wilson leading an ensemble of players including Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Luke Evans, Nick Jonas and Aaron Eckhart amongst others. For the most part they deliver the customary patriotic dialogue, with masculine undertones and the cultural sentiments of our grandparents’ era. Those who are sensitive to phrases such as “Let’s get some Japs” would do well to remember the context of the time and view the film accordingly.
Contrary to such outdated rhetoric, however, is the film’s depiction of the Japanese antagonists. Where films of the past have portrayed their part in the war with (justified) condemnation, Midway offers a sympathetic point of view, describing with humanity an alternative perspective to the conflict. Of course they hate the Americans, and vice versa, which in reality cannot be revised for such a historical film. For the most part Midway adheres to the timeline of events and chronicles a mostly accurate account of the battle, albeit with great flair.
The special effects are excessive and entirely bloated with missiles, explosions and fighter planes dancing across the screen in an orchestrated tango; Emmerich’s penchant for over-indulgence makes for a breathtaking and compelling action movie.
If you can imagine a film that lies somewhere between the ornateness of Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor and the marvel of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, then you have a good idea of what to expect. Midway is an extravagant spectacle, delivering a bang-for-buck blockbuster adventure that demands to be seen on the big screen.
In cinemas: January 30, 2020
Starring: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Roland Emmerich