3 June 2003 | keithw84
Mediocre war film can't live up to predecessors.
Like "The Longest Day" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!", "Midway" follows the true story very closely and features an all star cast. And like the Longest Day, it features Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Wagner. However, whereas the first two are war classics, Midway falls short in many departments.
For one, the movie seems to have no sense of building suspense. In the Longest Day, the paratrooper landings and the scenes of bombardment vessels creeping toward the shore let you know that all hell is about to break loose. Likewise, in Tora! Tora! Tora!, scenes of anxious commanders, desperate analysts, and the oblivious Hawaii residents are separated by scenes of approaching Japanese bombers to hike the suspense factor. Yet, despite the fact that Midway was the most decisive naval battle in modern history, we don't get a true sense of how important the pilots' jobs are or how grave the implications of the battle are, except for from titles before and after the movie. Where were the scenes of planes prepping for takeoff or of pilots, wary but dutiful about a mission that may be their last?
The battle sequences are another problem. First off, most of the footage is actual war footage or stock footage. The stock footage works fine for the bombing of Tokyo (since the shown footage is actually about that event) but is a little less convincing when the footage shown is supposed to be of Hawaii's Hickam Field but is passed off as Midway Island. Worse than the presence of stock footage is the editing. While maps of the ocean are shown repeatedly so that we know where the action is taking place, it's hard to tell what's what when we're away from the maps. We see planes crash into water and bombs explode, but most of the battle sequences could use a little more coherence. Had the makers of this movie shot a little combat footage of their own, even if only to make the battle scenes less jump, the movie would have benefitted.
For the most part, the cast is pretty good and fares well with only occasionally trite dialogue. However, only Heston, Holbrook, and Shigeta stand out. Many of the other players are simply not given enough time to make an impact. Coburn, especially, has little to do.
The flaws of this movie notwithstanding, it's still watchable, and it gives you a pretty good idea of the events and decisions leading up to the battle, as well as the errors and luck that went into the battle itself. And when you can't figure out what's happened from the uneven visuals, at least Nimitz (Fonda) or his at-sea commanders are there to describe what happened and add some perspective.
** out of ****