Midway Review: A war epic that’s lack of substance and genuine heart make it far from epic
Even with its historic pedigree and someone who’s no stranger to incredible action behind the camera, Roland Emmerich’s depiction of the battle of Midway is jammed up with too much familiarity and not enough substance to give the historical event any impact.
Following the events of Pearl Harbor, the film follows both the navy soldiers who have lost friends and family from the attack as well as the intelligence committee who failed to see it coming. For the first time, the Americans are filled with doubt and are the underdogs against a mighty Japanese army. With redemption and vengeance on everyone’s mind, all of these forces in the American military must come together as the Japanese plan to attack the Midway military base in order to cripple the Americans even further.
While Midway shoots to be historically accurate and pay homage to those that that served in the historic fight to change history, I couldn’t help but see the film as fake the entire time. The sets look fake, even in moments where they are just standing around it looks like they have a green screen behind them, and it’s going for such a cinematic feel that it loses all of the seriousness that could be had. The action sequences felt incredibly unrealistic and repetitive as it constantly just uses the same formula in showing plane combat. Either you would see someone with a really intense face shoot down planes around them or someone diving toward an enemy naval ship and just dropping the bomb in time. It’s simply a rinse and repeat formula that make the moments that are supposed to be heart-pounding barely able to raise anyone’s pulse.
Even between all of the action, the moments where the characters are delved into are completely botched because of recycled dialogue and personalities. From generic cocky pilots that are looking to avenge their fallen brothers to intelligence officers persevering past the doubt that’s casted on them, you’ve seen this all before in plenty of better movies. There’re also too many characters and too many familiar faces to make any of the characters standout or memorable. None of the motivations or actions are too different from that of the typical action hero and the film is barely interested in delving into the details of Midway and is more interested in having characters’ machismo drive the film. I will say that the code breaking aspect of Midway is interesting, but the film needed more detail like this throughout the film instead of just constantly shoving in characters and plot threads to muddy up the overall experience.
The performances from the ensemble cast are fine with Ed Skrein and Patrick Wilson probably being the most memorable, but barely, with their characters having some personal struggles that viewers can connect to. The scene of Skrein’s Dick Best, and yes I also couldn’t take that name seriously even though it’s actually the person he’s portraying’s real name, identifying his friend’s body after Pearl Harbor is tough and Wilson’s Edwin Layton tirelessly working throughout the film were personal moments that work. However, moments like these are constantly undercut by the injection of random story points and focus on minor characters. While it’s admirable for the film to give as many historical figures the time they deserve, including the Japanese, there’s just too much going on and not enough time given to everyone to make their actions impactful. Everything with Aaron Eckhart’s Doolittle feels so forcibly shoved in and doesn’t have a strong connection to everything happening with the navy and all of the “tension” between Best and Darren Criss’ Lindsey and Luke Evan’s McClusky is so pointless and ripped straight from other generic action flicks.
While it’s admirable to give light to a generally unrecognized historical battle and those that fought in it, Midway should’ve leaned more on its historical aspect rather than the action hero attitude it boasts. It’s a movie that’s all too familiar to be unique and has little substance to find anything to connect to within it’s painful runtime. In some ways, Midway is like being in history class during a lecture – just plain boring.