“Midway” is the perfect Veteran’s Day weekend movie. Obviously, it’s a “war” movie and is aimed at those that like history, war movies and movies about heroes. Many will be the veterans among us.
In this case the title Midway is the Midway of World War II naval fame and the battle that military experts note probably turned the tide of the war in the Pacific in favor of the Allies. Or allies in this case meaning more the U.S. than anyone.
Out of the Pacific theater came names that still have legendary status in this country’s history. Admiral Chester Nimitz, Admiral William Halsey and fighter pilot legend Jimmy Doolittle. “Midway” is their story but it is — even more — the story of the unsung heroes of that now legendary at sea chess match.
“Midway” is a long film that starts pre-World War II with U.S. military strategist Edwin Layton picking the brain of Japanese Admiral Yamaguchi and ends with the conclusion of the battle and information about what happened to the few pilots and sailors followed in the movie and to Yamaguchi. In between is you meet real life flying ace Dick Best — who is the movie’s main character — and his real-life commander Wade McClusky and Best’s wife, Anna and some of Japan’s naval leaders.
“Midway” is directed by Roland Emmerich and is based on a screenplay by Wes Tooke (TV’s Colony”). It’s typical Emmerich. No one can top him when it comes to battle sequences involving aircraft. He perfected that talent in one of my all-time favorite movies, “Independence Day” and it’s awful sequel in 2016.
His battle footage here is nothing short of phenomenal. Sadly, Tooke’s characters and story aren’t quite up to Emmerich’s epic-making skill. And Emmerich fully intended this to be an epic like the 1976 original.
Sadly, the one thing that keeps his film from achieving that status is the cast. Actors Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Tadanobu Asano, Luke Evans and Aaron Eckhard are very good in their roles but they don’t quite match the star power of the 1976 film.
It was a so-so movie that managed to make blockbuster status and ranked 10th in box office dollars that year. The reason was casting a list of Hollywood icons like Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Toshirô Mifune, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson and Robert Wagner.
While this cast doesn’t quite match that one, you will like many of the performances. I especially like the work of Wilson and Harrelson and that of Skrein (“Alita: Battle Angel”) and Evans (“Beauty and the Beast”).
Sadly, this won’t likely see the box office success of the original. The year 1976 was much closer to World War II than present day. Many of the people that saw that movie were veterans of the war. Today almost all of those men and women have passed from this world into the next.
Today’s younger moviegoers are likely to wonder what a Midway is and why all the fuss. It’s a history lesson that — in spite of Emmerich’s exceptional skill at special effects and some amazing battle scenes — won’t attract that many of them.
Plus, the plot just isn’t quite up to Emmerich’s directing skills. So those that do see the movie will find this “Midway” like that “Midway” is just midway between good and great.
▪ Rated PG-13 for violence, language and mature themes. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
▪ Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5