Film Review: Midway ★★1/2

Roland Emmerich’s Midway deserves high marks for historical accuracy and content, but sadly low marks for pacing, storytelling and character development. The film feels as though it suffers from a crippling identity crisis. Torn between a documentary-like recounting of historical fact, action packed airborne dogfights, and a consumer-friendly wartime narrative, coming to rest as a banal and mediocre war film.

The story of Midway picks up just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the intelligence failure that left that door open. After the attack, the remaining American naval fleet begins chasing the Japanese fleet across the Pacific. After several disastrous battles Military Intelligence uncovers an impending Japanese offensive at Midway. Seizing the opportunity to catch the Japanese fleet off guard the American Navy lays a trap to catch the Japanese off-guard. 

Midway Official US Poster

Midway may be absurdly paced, and surprisingly dull, but it is exceedingly respectful in its depictions of fact. Emmerich chose to focus attention on several lesser known aspects of this incredibly famous military battle. For instance, Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) looms large as the intelligence officer credited with uncovering the Japanese plot to attack at Midway, and figures prominently in the plan to draw the Japanese into a strategic trap.

The sanitary depiction of the American service members undermines the attempted profundity of the film. Even the depictions of tragic loss of life, and injury are undermined by flat and often lifeless performances. However, this film did successfully serve to honor the actions and memory of everyone involved in the battle, regardless of which side they were on.

Where Midway genuinely succeeds is with its unwavering dedication to historical accuracy. Audiences are likely to walk away from this film with a more complete understanding of the Battle of Midway, and some may even be mildly entertained.

Kyle J. Steenblik

Midway is released in US theaters 8th November 2019.

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