Midway pays tribute to fallen American heroes even as the film may also be a spiritual sequel to an earlier Pacific-set World War 2 film, Pearl Harbor.
Let’s get it out of the way right now. Roland Emmerich is certainly attracted to directing films that have a large amount of action in them. At the same time, this film does not suffer from the problems that brought down Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor. For this, we’re grateful. We see some of the same battles being depicted in both films, mainly Pearl Harbor and Doolittle’s Raid. This is really where the comparisons end. To our advantage, screenwriter Wes Tooke’s script features more real people than the 2001 film.
Some time after Japan woke up a sleeping giant on December 7, 1941, the Americans discovered a Japanese plan taking shape. One that would see the Imperial Japanese Navy go after the Midway Islands. What happened next likely defied all odds at the time. After the tragic events at Pearl Harbor, the US Navy was not in the best of shape–at least in the Pacific. Nobody could have ever expected American forces to hold the Japanese at bay. Yet this is exactly what happened.
The film focuses on three areas. On the USS Enterprise, we have Dick Best (Ed Skrein), Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank), and Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas). Over at Pearl Harbor, the focus turns to Naval Intelligence officer Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) code breaker Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown), and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (Woody Harrelson). Finally, we have Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa), and Japanese officers Tamon Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano), Kaku Tomeo (Nobuya Shimamoto) and Chūichi Nagumo (Jun Kunimura). Midway is a major improvement over Pearl Harbor. A reason for this is because of telling this story through the real people who were there,
Thankfully, we have some moments where the film can breathe. These moments are needed in a film that’s otherwise full of non-stop tension. Believe me, I was on the edge of my seat at times. While I’m on the subject of editing, there are times were the film cuts to important conversations taking place on both sides of the Pacific. At the same time, the film does play more to the action that we’re accustomed to seeing in anything directed by Roland Emmerich.
Wes Tooke’s script takes advantage of the available research over the years. As a result, we’re allowed to see a side to the Japanese that we’ve never seen before. Moreover, there’s no going out of order in terms of chronology. There’s a brief prologue four years before Pearl Harbor but this film delivers a better Battle of Pearl Harbor than Pearl Harbor ever could. That’s not saying much but credit to Roland Emmerich for wanting the film to be as authentic as possible.
For the film buffs out there, director John Ford just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Or would it be the wrong place at the right time? In any event, the USNR Commander was on hand to film what became an 18-minute documentary, The Battle of Midway. This documentary short would also go on to win an Academy Award.
The people who fought in World War 2 are the Greatest Generation. This is no lie. We’re losing more and more WW2 veterans every year. In fact, the last of the 72 men who participated in Doolittle’s Raid died in the past year. Without the brave service of Americans during WW2, there’s no telling what could have happened. Midway just happens to tell one story but does so in a way in which we see it through both American and Japanese eyes.
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich
SCREENWRITER: Wes Tooke
CAST: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Etsushi Toyokawa, Tadanobu Asano, Luke Kleintank, Jun Kunimura, Darren Criss, Keean Johnson, Alexander Ludwig, with Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Woody Harrelson