In Brief: A very good Veterans Day weekend movie and a fairly accurate telling of the battle of Midway in the Pacific during World War II.
Midway is the perfect Veteran’s Day weekend movie. Obviously, it’s a “war” movie and is aimed at those that like history, war movies and movies about heroes. Many will be the veterans among us.
In this case the title Midway is the Midway of World War II naval fame and the battle that military experts note probably turned the tide of the war in the Pacific in favor of the Allies. Or allies in this case meaning more the U.S. than anyone.
Out of the Pacific theater came names that still have legendary status in this country’s history. Admiral Chester Nimitz, Admiral William Halsey and fighter pilot legend Jimmy Doolittle. “Midway” is their story but it is — even more — the story of the unsung heroes of that now legendary at sea chess match.
Midway is a long film that starts pre-World War II with U.S. military strategist Edwin Layton picking the brain of Japanese Admiral Yamaguchi and ends with the conclusion of the battle and information about what happened to the few pilots and sailors followed in the movie and to Yamaguchi. In between is you meet real life flying ace Dick Best — who is the movie’s main character — and his real-life commander Wade McClusky and Best’s wife, Anna and some of Japan’s naval leaders.
The movie is directed by Roland Emmerich and is based on a screenplay by Wes Tooke (TV’s Colony). It’s typical Emmerich. No one can top him when it comes to battle sequences involving aircraft. He perfected that talent in one of my all-time favorite movies, Independence Day and it’s awful sequel in 2016.
His battle footage here is nothing short of phenomenal. Sadly, Tooke’s characters and story aren’t quite up to Emmerich’s epic-making skill. And Emmerich fully intended this to be an epic like the 1976 original.
Sadly, the one thing that keeps his film from achieving that status is the cast. Actors Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Tadanobu Asano, Luke Evans and Aaron Eckhard are very good in their roles but they don’t quite match the star power of the 1976 film.
It was a so-so movie that managed to make blockbuster status and ranked 10th in box office dollars that year. The reason was casting a list of Hollywood whos whos like Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Toshirô Mifune, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson and Robert Wagner.
While this cast doesn’t quite match that one, you will like many of the performances. I especially like the work of Wilson and Harrelson and that of Skrein (Alita: Battle Angel) and Evans (Beauty and the Beast).
Sadly, this won’t likely see the box office success of the original. The year 1976 was much closer to World War II than present day. Many of the people that saw that movie were veterans of the war. Today almost all of those men and women have passed from this world into the next.
Today’s younger moviegoers are likely to wonder what a Midway is and why all the fuss. It’s a history lesson that — in spite of Emmerich’s exceptional skill at special effects and some amazing battle scenes — won’t attract that many of them.
Plus, the plot just isn’t quite up to Emmerich’s directing skills. So those that do see the movie will find this Midway like that Midway is just midway between good and great.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Tadanobu Asano, Jun Kunimura, Etsushi Toyokawa, Aaron Eckhard, Alexander Ludwig, Darren Criss, Nick Jonas
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes. If war movies are your thing this one isn’t too bad. It’s a bit long but a good history lesson packed with plenty of drama and a little comedy to offset all that seriousness. Give it a friendly 3 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.