Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Brennan Brown, Jun Kunimura, Etsushi Toyokawa, Geoffrey Blake and Peter Shinkoda
Run time: 2h 18m
Roland Emmerich, World War II and the true account of one single day that turned the war in the Pacific. Combining these three things will either fill you with excitement or dread. If you’re unfamiliar with Mr Emmerich’s work you only need to do a quick google search to see that he’s responsible for huge blockbusters such as Independence Day, White House Down and The Day After Tomorrow. Movies not to everyone’s taste, but there aren’t many directors out there that know how to pull off the spectacular like he can.
Opening with the explosive and devastating attack on the US naval fleet at Pearl Harbour, which saw America lose their neutral status and officially join the war, what comes next is an overlong look at how America’s military tacticians and codebreakers beat the Japanese at their own game. We follow a small band of brothers as they fight back against overwhelming odds, culminating in the monumental battle for Midway, a small group of islands that hold the key to potential dominance in the race for victory.
There’s an extremely impressive ensemble cast on display, however none of them have anything to get their teeth into. Maverick pilot Dick Best (Skrein) goes from rebelling against his superiors to leading his own squadron in the blink of an eye and Intelligence Officer Edwin Layton (Wilson) has no arc whatsoever and this is where the film crash lands. With hardly any character development, young American soldiers may have varying styles of facial hair to try and differentiate them, but they still end up looking identical and you’ll probably stop trying to figure out who’s who after one too many players are introduced. Even legendary director John Ford (Blake) makes an appearance, filming his Oscar winning documentary, “The Battle of Midway“, amidst the mayhem.
They’re all a fairly likeable bunch and Skrein leads the story well, but it’s all too crowded with Luke Evans, Nick Jonas and Dennis Quaid having very little to do. And poor old Aaron Eckhart may get more screen time in the director’s cut, because here his limited presence surely isn’t what he signed up for. The Japanese cast bring style and gravitas, but all are let down by a script which is clunky and gung-ho.
The aerial battles are where the film earns its wings and are its saving grace. These are, at times, breath-taking. The bullets crack and fizz, the canons boom and the roar of the jet engines combined with some cinematic wizardry are astonishing. Emmerich’s aerodynamics are in full flow and it’s disappointing when he brings us back down to the ground.
Taking off at about 140 minutes long, Midway could have easily lost half an hour and been a lot more enjoyable. As it is, apart from the thrilling dogfights which will please Emmerich purists, it ultimately stalls and doesn’t hit the lofty heights it was aiming for.
Midway battles its way into UK cinemas from Friday 8th November.