Cinema Cindy Reviews: Midway

(with technical help from Paul Bradley)
Los Alamos

“Midway” opened in time for Veteran’s Day this year, a truly epic film with a stellar cast.

It excels in its historical accuracy and storytelling, due in part to Japanese participation in the film’s production. It must be said that, since the 1976 film of the same name, far greater visual accuracy is now possible, thanks to Computer Generated Imagery (CGI).

These are many of the reasons “Midway” takes you into the battle in ways film has not succeeded in doing before.

The Battle of Midway was the turning point in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. Until this point in the Pacific War, Japan had the upper hand, having destroyed most U.S. Pacific battleships in a pre-emptive strike against Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. Severely hampered by the losses at Pearl, the U.S. found itself at a disadvantage against the Japanese. Fortunately, no aircraft carriers were in port at Pearl when the attack came; they would, in fact, prove to be more important than those battleships in the coming years.

In April of 1942, Doolittle’s bombing raid on Tokyo convinced the Japanese they needed to strike fast to destroy the remaining U.S. Pacific Fleet. In order to do that, Japan determined that attacking Midway Island would force the U.S. Navy to defend it, thus drawing U.S. ships into battle. It was six months after Pearl Harbor, between June 4 and 7, 1942, that the battle for Midway was engaged.

Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day—1996) has chosen to show heroism, on both sides of the Battle of Midway, with a large cast portraying American and Japanese officers, sailors and airmen. With Emmerich at the helm, characters evolve in response to the threats before them. Courage is thrown in the face of fear. Strategic planning and individual decisions have a huge impact on the play of the four-day battle. Officers learn to trust each other’s assessments of the intelligence at hand and of the men in their command. The wives back at Pearl remain strong. All the same, Luck plays a big part in how each day of battle plays out.

The central characters in this Midway tale are an Annapolis educated dive bomber named Dick Best (Ed Skrein who played Ajax in Deadpool) and an Intelligence analyst fluent in Japanese named Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson—King Orm in Aquaman). Layton pieces together bits of overheard Japanese transmissions. Something big is afoot, and though they don’t have all the details, he must convince Admiral Chester Nimitz (played by Woody Harrelson) that the time to act is now. William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid) takes longer to convince, but soon three U.S. aircraft carriers are on their way to support and protect the U.S. outpost on the atoll of Midway. Unbeknownst to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa), Layton and his analysts have cracked enough Japanese code to know where their navy is headed.

Emmerich’s use of CGI in the battle scenes renders accurately the details of the historical ships on both sides of the war. Military buffs will notice that the film gets the lines of the Enterprise class carrier right, this time. Each aircraft carrier unleashes squadrons of historically accurate dive bombers, torpedo planes, and fighters, leading to visually realistic aerial battles.

You won’t want to miss this new Midway. “Rated PG-13 for sequences of war violence and related images, language and smoking,” it is as good a WWII naval battle film as you will ever see.

Editor’s note: Midway opens Friday at the Reel Deal Movie Theater in Los Alamos. Click here for show times.