Words Mike Beck
With a penchant for the spectacle, Roland Emmerich’s latest effort is a period piece adapted from events during the Second World War. Midway is a tour-de-force big-budget extravaganza, given a larger than life treatment in a way that only Emmerich knows how.
With screen credits that run long & strong in the disaster film genre, fans of Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, White House Down etc) won’t be let down with more of the same with Midway. Based on WWII conflicts between Japan & the United States, the film recounts the battle strategies & war-gaming from the late 1930’s to early 40’s, delivered stylistically to make you feel like you’re a player inside a chess game of big boys toys.
“This is typical Emmerich though; a hard focus on the spectacle, an affinity for elaborate action sequences”
The literally explosive battle sequences suggest much money has been put into bringing Midway’s visual effects laden tale together. The CG era enables battleships to come to their demise in ways never before seen, while dogfights are intricately & expertly rendered, with live-action & SFX blended brilliantly. No expense has been spared with casting either, as Ed Skrein (superhero pilot Dick Best), Patrick Wilson (Ed Layton) & Aaron Eckhart (Jimmy Doolittle) mix it with veterans Woody Harrelson (Nimitz) & Dennis Quaid (‘Bull’ Halsey). In this Top Gun style tale, they have all the right moves.
Midway does maintain its pacing at breakneck, with even the quieter moments driven along with a modern brooding soundtrack. This is perhaps intrusive & distracting at times; breaking the illusion of the time in which it is set, plus the lack of space and dynamics, particularly in pivotal dialogue driven scenes.
This is typical Emmerich though; a hard focus on the spectacle, an affinity for elaborate action sequences, with characters portrayed & played out as iconic hero’s tailor-made for the Hollywood system. Although based on historic figures with key involvement in one chapter of WWII, the storytelling & tone of Midway doesn’t make clear whether it is a pro or anti-war film. The tropes of honour, bravery, dignity & pride give the film a ‘Cowboys vs Indians’ matinee sensibility.
There’s another war film occupying our big-screens at present. 1917, by Sam Mendes, is very much the anti-thesis of Midway, set during the Great War, told in an intimate way with effects of a whole other kind. If you get to the cinema often & you’re a war film fan, go see them both. Midway will show you just what happens when fire meets fire, but for the cinephiles, Mendes’ film is something else.