A few days ago, I watched Midway for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But now after watching it for the third time in less than a week, I can definitely say it’s one of my new favorite history movies along with Downfall and Darkest Hour.
I’ve never really given much thought to what it must’ve been like to fly a Dauntless, Wildcat or P-51 Mustang during World War II. But Roland Emmerich was a master at not only putting the audience in the pilot’s seat, he also did a great job at capturing the feel of how intense and dangerous the combat was, along with what the mood was among many American fighter pilots during the war.
At the start of the film, the recreation of the attack on Pearl Harbor definitely woke me up. I couldn’t imagine being a sailor on deck that Sunday morning in Oahu. They were minding their own business with their shipmates and friends, enjoying the beginning of what they thought was going to be a peaceful December day. They must’ve thought the huge squadron of planes heading toward them was friendly…until they started divebombing and torpedoing everything in sight!
I understand this is a movie, and creative liberties were probably taken at certain points to enhance the gravity or weight of everything. But in my case watching it, it definitely did what it was probably supposed to do: Make me remember the nearly 3,500 American sailors wounded and killed that day, and set the stage for a group of young fighter pilots eager to do what the entire country wanted to do at that time: Get revenge on Japan.
The Key Players
The portrayal of the pilots and sailors we get to know throughout the movie was another strong point of Midway. Ed Skrein heads a solid cast. He portrays Richard Halsey “Dick” Best, a divebomber from New Jersey. He’s loud, brash, funny at times, yet tough as nails when he has to be. Not to mention he’s got antifreeze in his veins. But I suppose bomber pilots had to be that way…especially when they’re flying into a hail of bullets from Japanese AA guns while bombing ships up close and personal!
Other important figures portrayed in the movie include:
- Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank), Dick Best’s friend and fellow bomber.
- Wade McCluskey (Luke Evans), a flight instructor and fighter pilot. One of Best’s superiors.
- Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas), Machinist Mate First Class.
- William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid), Fleet Admiral.
- Chester W. Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), Fleet Admiral and Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
- James Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart), fighter pilot, known for the famous “Doolittle Raid” where he led a mission to bomb Tokyo.
- Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson), a U.S. Pacific Fleet Intelligence officer who worked to crack Japanese naval codes.
- Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown), a Radio Analyst who works with Layton to crack Japanese naval codes.
Midway was really strong in not only showing the distinct personalities of these men, but also showing the role they had to play in our eventual victory in World War II. Roland Emmerich constructed everything in such a way that the movie fit together like a puzzle. What one key player did directly affected, or helped the other key players to do their jobs. Midway definitely showed the teamwork involved in winning the war in the Pacific. Plus every key personality was fleshed out enough that I feel like the actors could reprise their roles in spinoff movies. They were that good, in my opinion!
I know Midway likely won’t get any spinoffs or sequels. But if the studio had wanted to, they could’ve made spinoffs to Midway. Perhaps one showing the Doolittle Raid, another showing more of Nimitz’s and Halsey’s leadership within our Navy, and one showing Layton and Rochefort cracking the Japanese naval codes along with other intelligence operatives. If a movie was ever made similar to the style of Midway, but with Layton and Rochefort as the stars, I imagine it as kind of like a Zero Dark Thirty film with a World War II twist. I’m sure the intelligence work was extremely interesting!
Tireless and tenacious intelligence work often gets overlooked in the midst of huge ground, naval or air victories. Generals, Admirals and Commanders get the glory for winning battles and wars. They should. They should always be honored along with their troops. But without top notch intelligence, every big military operation in history would’ve stayed stuck in neutral. Nothing would go anywhere.
“This is for Pearl!”
My favorite scene in the entire film though, had to be this one:
Everything about this scene was just awesome. The tense music, the chaos of the battle, and Dick Best letting out a primal scream after dropping the bomb to sink a Japanese carrier. How much more badass can it get?! The scene definitely seems Hollywood-ized, but that’s not the point of it. I think this scene was used to show how Dick Best and so many others felt about Pearl Harbor, which I completely understand and agree with. I felt the same way after 9/11.
No matter how fractured our country seems at times, if we’re shocked or shaken by a common enemy that wakes us up like with Pearl Harbor or 9/11, we take a second or two to let it register. Then we get angry and all unholy hell breaks loose once the sleeping American Giant wakes up. Like one of my favorite songs says: “We may have done a little bit of fighting amongst ourselves. But you outside people best leave us alone!”
Overall, I thought Midway was fantastic! I’ve definitely gotten into the habit of watching war movies lately. Maybe I should check out Fury, 1917, or Dunkirk next? But I would definitely recommend Midway to anyone who likes action movies, and is a student of history. Jump into the copilot’s seat with Dick Best and the others. You won’t regret it!