With its theatrical release well-timed for Veterans’ Day weekend, Roland Emmerich’s saga recalls a pivotal W.W.II battle in the South Pacific.
Historians cite the Battle of Midway as the most effective naval warfare operation, debilitating the Imperial Japanese Navy just six months after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor left the U.S. fleet in ruins.
In a pre-war Tokyo preamble, U.S. Attaché to Japan Lt. Commander Edwin T. Layton (Patrick Wilson) develops a premonition of conflict after meeting with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyoawa). After the devastation of Pearl Harbor, the big brass, particularly Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), comes to rely on military strategist Layton’s instinct for Intelligence.
There’s Lt. Col. James Doolittle’s (Aaron Eckart) daring air-strike on Tokyo weeks later, followed by his crash-landing in Japanese-occupied Chinese territory and rescue by Chiang Kai-shek’s loyal rebels. But the Americans were unsure where to go next.
After intercepting radio message and partially ‘cracking’ the Japanese code, Layton and his cohorts are convinced that Midway Atoll will be next, which involves strategically moving the few remaining aircraft carriers and destroyers to the right positions.
That introduces hotshot bomber pilot Lt. Richard “Dick” Best (Ed Skrein), along with gutsy Italian-American aviation mechanic Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas), along with Admiral William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid) and Air Group Commander Wade McClusky (Luke Evans).
Best known for Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, Roland Emmerich even includes a little-known ‘inside’ glimpse of intrepid American director John Ford (Geoffrey Blake) and his terrified cameraman filming actual Midway footage for Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series of propaganda films.
While the tense aerial dogfights and bombing raids look superb, it’s too bad that Wes Tooke’s screenplay lacks any shred of originality, relying on superficial characters and conventional clichés.
Unfortunately, Emmerich’s version lacks the star-power of the 1976 Midway with Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, Robert Wagner, James Coburn, Hal Holbrook and Toshiro Mifune.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Midway” is an archaic 6, perhaps better suited to the History Channel.