For a few fleeting minutes of Roland Emmerich’s over prized indie epic ‘Midway’, you can actually see the remnants of a better film. Patrick Wilson is so effortlessly finer than everyone around him in this film, it kinda hurts when the main characters show up. Before we can even gather who is who and how any knows anybody else, the Pearl Harbor attack takes place. It should come as no surprise that this harrowing attack comes off like ‘Independence Day’, but with a bunch of people running around that we don’t know. It looks decent enough, but it really lacks emotional involvement so much that I was begging for a Michael Bay love triangle.
Once this is over, we more properly get introduced to our characters. The one that gets the most screen time is a cocky pilot named Dick Best (sometimes you just can’t make this shit up) and he is played by Ed Skrein. There are lots of other actress in thankless roles, like Mandy Moore as the one dimensional wife character, or Dennis Quaid as the skipper of the ship (truly the worst performance of his life). Others, like Patrick Wilson and Woody Harrelson as an intelligence officer and the Commanding Officer of the base, manage to shine in roles that would have been quite bland in others hands.
The storylines mostly just break down into a series of generic storylines. Soldiers talk about their next target. They talk to their wives about what’s going to happen next. Soldiers squabble over small disagreements. Then they make up and fight together. Speeches are made that aren’t earned. Pretty much everything that happens in the entire movie is a Hollywood cliche about war movies that has likely existed since the time this movie actually takes place. The one thing that truly shines in this film is the dog fight sequences. These are mostly visual effects, but they’re well cut and often rousing. If the rest of the film had the same precision as these sequences then it might have been able to make up for the poor writing that drags this thing to the ocean floor.
Sadly, nothing really works until these airmen take flight. But the writing is just the worst. I know I already wrote the word cliche, but this movie seems to be scripted by committee. It’s like every single writer sat down and watched old war movies to figure out what being in the armed forces was like. Then, they regurgitated each and every one of those existing tropes until they had pressed every special war movie button. The part they forgot was doing any kind of research on the characters, giving anybody any natural dialogue, or trying to even fill the blanks with some real human drama. They just went with the cliches.
Too bad you can’t get away with making a war movie without a story. If I was watching a ‘Call of Duty’ video game then I might be inclined to forgive the horrible dialogue and story. However, even most of the ‘Call of Duty’ games I’ve played are significantly better written than this. Maybe Emmerich could have gotten away with this kind of sappy junk about 40 years ago, but it doesn’t work now. Honestly, it wouldn’t have worked very well then either.