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Midway (2019) - Movie Review

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Hollywood needs more war films. Despite the pig-headed durability of the world’s war machine providing an unending supply of source material, the genre has largely become abandoned with only the occasional passion project popping up from time to time around Veteran’s Day. For decades, the underserved genre has been a reliable battle cry for Americans to raise their flags and rally around those more selfless and brave than themselves. And if the film is particularly good, we can all learn a little bit about history at the same time.

"is an embarrassing disservice to the honor of those who fought there. Yes, it is that bad."

Unfortunately for war film fans, the idea for a remake of Midway popped up on Roland Emmerich’s radar. Unfortunate for a couple of reasons. First, the decisive World War II battle had already been covered quite extensively in 1976’s Jack Smight-directed Midway which starred Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, and a dozen other A-listers. And despite that film’s gross inaccuracies, a revisit wasn’t really needed. Secondly, Emmerich simply isn’t the right director to give the heroic battle and the men who fought it the respect they deserve. Sure, he’s one of the best at blowing things up in front of a camera. However, as we learned from Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor (2001), blowing things up doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful war movie. And that is certainly the case with Emmerich’s take on Midway that not only misses the mark with its over the top explosions, maudlin dialogue, and hammy acting, but is an embarrassing disservice to the honor of those who fought there. Yes, it is that bad.

Emmerich directs from a script by first-timer Wes Tooke who lays out his tale that follows three story lines, each giving different perspectives on the battle. First, we meet the pilots aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise who bravely fought their way through the Midway campaign. We watch Ed Skrein as hotshot pilot Lt. Richard “Dick” Best fight through not only his dreadful northeastern accent, but also the barrage of Japanese fire as he and fellow pilot Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank) represent the numerous Navy pilots and sailors who we are supposed to care about, yet don’t.

Next, we follow the fascinating work of Naval Intelligence officer Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) whose team of codebreakers proved an integral part in the battle of Midway. We also go behind the scenes of the U.S. military strategy with Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), Vice Admiral William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid) and other officers who planned the strategy to defeat the Japanese.

And finally, in the third storyline we get an interesting glimpse into the enemy’s side of the conflict by joining Japanese officers Tamon Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano), Kaku Tomeo (Nobuya Shimamoto) and Chuichi Nagumo (Jun Kunimura). Though certainly nothing new, it is nice that Emmerich and company chose to pay homage to ALL the soldiers who lost their lives at Midway.

Though absolute accuracy is nearly impossible in such a grand, sweeping film as this, it is nice to see Emmerich not play too loose and fast with the facts. However, sadly he gets nearly everything else wrong. There’s a high degree of difficulty in getting the tone just right in a film like this as we switch back and forth from high level conversations, to strategic meetings, to intense battle sequences. And never once are those transitions seamless in Midway. Even within battle scenes themselves, confusion and chaos reign supreme as we’re never given a chance to follow the action. Yes, all hell is breaking loose in the Pacific, but we should never be allowed to realize that the same hell was breaking loose in the studio – or more accurately, on the computer. Midway

Speaking of CGI, although we’ve come to accept – even expect – an overload of CGI and green screen work in an Emmerich film, we’ve rarely seen it handled as poorly as it is here. Dogfights, explosions, and the intensity of battle go way over the top and never feel real. As a result, Midway feels like a cheaply-made video presentation for the kiosk at the Pearl Harbor visitor center.

Then there’s the acting and the dialogue. Oh, Lordy, are they bad! Midway could only succeed if it were to find a way to humanize the selfless efforts and human moments that went into the decisive battle. Saving Private Ryan did just that with characters who spoke in ways that made us care. Midway doesn’t. The closest we get comes in the moments spent with the Japanese officers and soldiers. They aren’t handled as nicely as they were in Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima, but at least they aren’t laughable.

To be fair, one aspect that Midway gets right is the audio. It is recommended you catch it in a premium format at your local theater. Dolby Atmos or even iMax if available in your area. You’ll be glad you spent the extra money as whizzing bullets and rumbling airplane engines put us right in the middle of the action, making the horror of war a truly frightening thing.

1/5 beers



Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor:
Available on Blu-ray

Screen Formats:

Region Encoding:


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of war violence and related images, language and smoking.
138 mins
: Roland Emmerich
Wes Tooke
Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson
: War | Military | Drama
Based on Real Events.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Pearl Harbor is the greatest intelligence failure in American history"
Theatrical Distributor:
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 8, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: The story of the Battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the sailors who fought it.


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