Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 137: Midway (1976) - Rank 2.5/5


With production values clearly out the roof, a dynamite cast (Henry Fonda, Hal Holbrook, Charton Heston, James Coburn, etc.) and a decent historical event as its primary focus to boot, "Midway" has a hell of a lot going for it. The film shifts back and forth between U.S. officers and Japanese officers both pending the battle and during the battle and as a result, the event is recreated with great accuracy and a dash of stock footage. The theme: the U.S. kicks ass. But after watching it, I felt unmoved even though I felt like the intent of the film was to instill me with such a sense of national pride that I would find a war hero, melt down his purple heart and inject it into my own ticker as if it were an adrenaline shot.

Why the emptiness? Well, while the film focused on epic battles that dazzled the eye, it missed out on one of the major elements that hits a war film home for me: the human element. Granted, there were some minor plot contrivances meant to tug at the heart strings, such as an officer experiencing discrimination due to his Japanese girlfriend, but for the better part, the movie was a recreation, nothing more. A big budget one at that. I love a war epic that focuses on individuals and accentuates dark themes, such as identity loss, the blurring of good and evil, or simply the madness of war (such as "Bridge on the River Kwai," "Saving Private Ryan," or "Apocalypse Now"). When a war film fails to offer individuals to the audience that they can not only bond with, but watch them grow from their experiences, then it becomes very dissociative. I found this to be the major problem with "Pearl Harbor" when I saw it, and I feel it's applicable here. Neither is a horrible film, per se, they just have their focus skewed towards recreating an incident rather than telling a story.

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