REVIEW: “Midway” (2019)

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I hate to say this but one thing that always keeps my expectations in check is seeing Roland Emmerich’s name attached to a project. For me he is the epitome of a hit-or-miss filmmaker. When he misses the results can be pretty dreadful (see 1998’s “Godzilla”, “White House Down”, and “Independence Day: Resurgence”). But he’s also the guy who gave us the rip-roaring original “Independence Day” and I still have plenty of love for “The Patriot”.

But what of his latest, the historical war picture “Midway”? Within minutes of watching I couldn’t help but pick up on the old-school movie vibes that informs us on the kind of film Emmerich is going for. It’s a movie that celebrates the valor, grit and patriotism of those who fought and sacrificed for their country. It may be a by-the-books tribute, but I still have room for entertaining old-fashioned war pictures even if others (unfortunately) dismiss them as out-of-date.

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The film attempts to cover a lot of ground starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor then onto the eventual Battle of Midway. Along the way we meet fighter pilots, admirals, specialists, and codebreakers who with others planned and carried out what is still considered one of the most pivotal naval battles in United States military history. There are plenty of action sequences, almost all of it being air and sea combat. But there are just as many (if not more) scenes of tense military strategizing.

“Midway” follows numerous characters but the main is a hotshot pilot and squadron commander Dick Best (Ed Skrein). He loses a close friend at Pearl Harbor which makes him eager to take the fight to Japan despite having a concerned wife (Mandy Moore) and toddler daughter at home. Woody Harrelson plays Admiral Chester Nimitz, the unlucky soul put in charge of the Pacific fleet and tasked with putting together the US response. And the always reliable Patrick Wilson plays Edwin Layton, the chief intelligence officer who tried to warn Washington about the Pearl Harbor attack.

Several other familiar faces pop in and out of the story including Luke Evans, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart and Nick Jonas. With such a list of reliable talent naturally the performances are solid throughout. Yet there is so much bouncing back-and-forth between war rooms and aerial engagements we rarely get the character depth that would have made this film really stand out. As a strict military procedural it works well, but it’s the human element that sometimes falls through the cracks.

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Again, Emmerich gives as much attention to the buildup as he does the warfare. It makes sense considering the actual Battle of Midway was just as much about the tactics and maneuvering as the fighting. “Midway” strikes a good balance and keeps a steady pacing right through to the inevitable combat-heavy finale. Speaking of the combat, the action scenes are surprisingly thrilling despite a heavy dependence on CGI. A little repetitive but still exciting.

Yes, “Midway” gives us the occasional line of dialogue that seems pulled from the John Wayne era, but it’s still a fitting and fun way to remember those who fought and sacrificed in a signature battle in American military history. And sure, the film’s unabashed patriotism is out of fashion today and certain to face cries of jingoism. But I’m glad movies like this occasionally come down the pipeline and “Midway” is a nice surprise from “Emmerich”.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

3-5-stars

12 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Midway” (2019)

  1. I have no interest in this. Reminds me too much of Pearl Harbor and I think Emmerich in his whole career only made a few decent to good films in his career in Stargate, ID4, The Patriot, and The Day After Tomorrow. Everything else is just shit. Plus, I read a review from a military guy who likes war movies but HATED this film and pointed out all of the inaccuracies about it.

    • I didn’t go into it for a war lesson. Doing that with a movie like this is a recipe for disaster. That’s why I talked so much about the classic war movie vibe. That’s what I found to be the most fun about it. This is definitely decent Emmerich which is refreshing after some real stinkers.

  2. I already left a comment about my opinion on Emmerich (unfavorable, and lets not forget 10,000 BC while thinking about his filmography). So besides that, it seems hard in general to make a really dramatic and engaging movie on the character level in these movies about large scale events, which I think is pretty much what your review is saying. I probably catch this eventually on DVD, sounds like there is enough commotion on the screen to make it watchable.

    • Exactly. The timeline is so vast and it covers the actions of so many characters. For me it works as a film highlighting the spirit and courage of those who fought. There are a few Emmerich excesses, for nothing like we usually get from him. It surprised me.

  3. Hubby ( a war history chap) was really looking forward to this, but I’ve read him a few of the newspaper reviews, none of which were complementary over the pond here. I will read him yours and cheer him up, either way, good or bad, we will be doing this.
    And yes, he’ll spot any inaccuracies 😀

    • There are inaccuracies for sure, many for dramatic effect. But as I told someone else, this really is more about the spirit and courage of those who were there and the strategies at work to make it all happen. Far from an all-time great, but surprisingly fun and respectful.

  4. Given my interest in World War II, I’ve been torn on whether or not to see this. I’m not the biggest fan of that director, and from your review, it sounds like it crams an awful lot into one movie. I’m hoping my husband gets a Screener 🙂 then I at least don’t have to pay movie theater prices.

    • I’ll be honest, it’s kinda fun on the big screen. I’m like you with Emmerich. He tends to be too excessive in many of his films. He kept it (mostly) in check here. Definitely not as bad as many of the reviews I’ve seen.

  5. This didn’t sounds interesting to me to begin with then seeing Nick Jonas in the trailer pretty much sealed the deal. I can’t take him seriously as an actor.

    • It’s funny, I wouldn’t know him if I ran into him on the street so I had no idea who he was. It’s a small role but he actually does a solid job. More charisma than you would expect.

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