Monday, December 09, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Midway (2019)

MIDWAY (2019) follows on the heels of yesterday's movie FORD V FERRARI (2019) as another strong example of well-made, "old-fashioned" entertainment.

MIDWAY, which I saw this afternoon, is old-fashioned in the sense that it's a well-crafted patriotic story without any modern political agenda. It simply seeks to depict the events in the key U.S.-Japanese naval battle during WWII in straightforward fashion, and it does a very good job in doing so. In fact, for those who may wonder, I think it's probably a better film than the 1976 MIDWAY, where a strong all-star cast had to overcome a pointless melodramatic subplot.

When I first saw a trailer for MIDWAY I was uncertain whether I'd like it, despite great interest in the topic; some of the battle scenes in the trailer caused me to fear that watching the movie would feel more like viewing an extended computer game than a film.

My friend Deb gave the film such an enthusiastic review at her blog Sidewalk Crossings that I decided I had to try it, and I'm glad I did.

After a brief prologue set in 1937 Japan, MIDWAY begins at Pearl Harbor, which sets the stage for all that follows, including the dire condition of our navy and the desperate need for accurate intelligence. Gradually the film's action moves forward, briefly depicting the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in the spring of 1942 -- Aaron Eckhart has a cameo as Doolittle -- before moving on to the decisive Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Other than the topic itself, the actors who really pulled me to see the movie were Woody Harrelson and Dennis Quaid as Chester Nimitz and Bull Halsey, and they couldn't have been better. Harrelson has become something of a wonder as a character actor; it was fascinating watching him in this authoritative role just weeks after his rather down-and-out retired Texas Ranger in THE HIGHWAYMEN (2019).

Quaid was likewise excellent. I particularly enjoyed the scene where he awards Bruno (Nick Jonas) a battle promotion after Bruno jumps into a plane parked on a carrier in order to shoot a Zero headed toward a crash landing on deck. (Like other scenes depicted in the film, this was based on fact; there were so many remarkable stories at Midway that there's really no need to make anything up.)

The film focuses on a variety of other characters including intelligence officer Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) and pilots Dick Best (Ed Skrein) and Wade McClusky (Luke Evans of the FAST & FURIOUS movie series). Best is believed to be the first man who successfully bombed two aircraft carriers in a single day's flying.

With regard to the issue I raised earlier, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't think about the computer effects while watching the film, other than very briefly here and there; the story is so compelling that that helped keep my mind from wandering to "How are they doing this?"

Frankly I also looked away from the dogfight scenes periodically, as they were so visually and emotionally overwhelming. Such bravery, and so much loss. It's almost hard to imagine that there were men brave enough to do what our men did at Midway...and that after they landed, if they landed, they'd go out and do it all over again.

There was one scene in particular depicting deaths at the hands of the Japanese that I wish had been left out; like everything else, it's a true story, but I've had trouble forgetting it. Viewers should also be warned they may not want to look when bodies are shown in the morgue at Pearl Harbor.

Classic film buffs will appreciate that the movie's authenticity includes a nod to the presence of Oscar-winning director John Ford (Geoffrey Blake) at Midway. Ford being wounded by shrapnel while filming what would become the documentary THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY (1942) is depicted.

Mandy Moore (TANGLED) plays Best's wife. The large cast also includes Luke Kleintank, Keean Johnson, Etsushi Toyokawa, Tadanobu Asano, Darren Criss, Jake Weber, and Brennan Brown.

MIDWAY was directed by Roland Emmerich and filmed by Robby Baumgartner from a script by Wes Tooke. The movie runs a well-paced 2 hrs and 18 minutes.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who was also highly appreciative of FORD V FERRARI, liked this one as well: "MIDWAY is so square, so old-school and old-fashioned, it almost feels avant-garde. Ambiguity is not its goal, nor is nihilism its motivating philosophy. It aims to celebrate heroism, sacrifice, determination and grit, and if you don’t like that it really does not care." Definitely my kind of movie!

This is a tough yet inspiring film about some of the greatest days and bravest men in American history. It seems to be doing pretty well at the box office, and I hope it continues to find appreciative audiences.

The movie has an official website.


Blogger DKoren said...

Glad you got to see this on the big screen, and glad you enjoyed it! Woody Harrelson really has become a fine actor.

I really like the Kenneth Turan comment you included: "It aims to celebrate heroism, sacrifice, determination and grit..." That is exactly what this movie does.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks again, Deb! (PS I think it will be easier watching it a second time, knowing who survives LOLLL.)

Yes, it definitely celebrates those things and I really appreciated that.

Best wishes,

1:49 PM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

YES! I'm so glad you got to see this :-) It really is fantastically old-fashioned and non-agenda-driven. I adore it.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous northierthanthou said...

This really seemed pretty ham-handed to me. It's almost as if they were trying to capture the tone of old propaganda films made during the war. Really frustrating film.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Rachel, thanks for sharing your thoughts! It's interesting some people really enjoy this movie, and others don't.

northierthanthou, I'm sorry the movie didn't work for you but thank you for sharing your thoughts. They can't all be winners for all of us --

Best wishes,

6:23 PM  

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