Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
MIDWAY opens with a scene of a large number of shirtless men doing calisthenics aboard a naval warship then segues into scenes of sailors filled with bluster, macho-posturing and insults. This when we also meet the main character, the rea-life fighter pilot, Dick Best. As portrayed by Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones, Deadpool), he’s a cocky daredevil who likes to disable his plane on training runs, evoking fear in his flying partner. Then, out of nowhere, the fleet is under attack and the deadly and surprising attack by the Japanese on Americans at Pearl Harbor means the United States (until then, a neutral observer of the atrocities occurring in Europe during World War II) is at war. We then quickly learn that intelligence officer, Edwin Layton (a bespectacled and effective Patrick Wilson), had cautioned his superiors that such an attack was imminent but those warnings fell on deaf ears. The Film follows the Americans and Japanese as they meticulously plan their next attack.
Director Roland Emmerich’s body of work is essentially bulletproof despite critical drubbings and I understand why he wanted to remake the 1976 all-star movie (Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum and James Coburn) with the same title. America’s patriotism appears to be at an all-time high. Recent WWII movies (Dunkirk as a prime example) have been financially successful and critically-acclaimed. Lastly, CGI advancements would add gravitas to this wartime chestnut and to give credit where credit is due, the battle scenes are outstanding visually. From the explosions and machine guns’ rat-a-tat-tats to bodies falling into fiery pits. They excel in their PG-13 glory and execution. Those many scenes deserve to be seen on the big screen for full appreciation. Sadly, the audience will be subjected to many other scenes that only a historian will enjoy.
Screenwriter Wes Tooke has not met a cliché that he can’t recycle and he has the perfect cast to sell his banalities. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the casting process. Not only do we need strong-jawed actors, we need to diversify the Cast with actors with innocent baby faces to elicit sympathy when they don’t survive. Need a name that has no fear wearing fright wigs? Thanks Woody Harrelson. A smoker’s gravelly voice? Dennis Quaid, you fit the bill. And a square jaw with a cleft? OMG, it’s Aaron Eckhart and Luke Evans too! How about some young up and coming actors? Darren Criss gleefully fits the bill. What about a pop superstar with a really meaty dramatic scene or two. Not only does Nick Jonas acquit himself with charisma, he shines in his pivotal moments on screen. Lastly, we only have one female character so let’s get Mandy Moore as she’s terrific in “This Is Us”. Every performer adequately sells the words their characters are made to speak and wincing as they may be.
Go see MIDWAY for the pyrotechnics as they’re dazzling. Stay to hear talented actors convincingly sell lines like “that magnificent son of a bitch actually found them” and Nick Jonas having the privilege to say the one and only F-bomb in the Movie.
Elevation Pictures release MIDWAY Wednesday, November 6, 2019.