Sunday, 10 November 2019

Review: Midway

Cert: 12A / 138 mins / Dir. Roland Emmerich / Trailer

"War", as George O'Dowd once sang, "is stupid". Not to let this lie, he further opined "and people are stupid". Now, a mere thirty five years later, Roland Emmerich has refined, combined and underlined those points with merciless efficiency in his new offering, Midway.

If you've ever wonder what the grubby-end of a brutal and complicated global conflict would look like when filtered through the brain which brought us two Independence Day movies and White House Down, you're in luck. Although if you have ever wondered that, you already know exactly what it would be like before you sit down. God help up all.


Ostensibly telling the True Story™ of the eponymous 1942 battle which turned the tide for the Allies after the Pearl Harbour attack, Midway is exactly what you'd expect from a movie whose gritty, blue-collar, All-American reluctant hero is literally named Dick Best*1. And that accolade works both for and against the film, depending on your pre-existing view of these things. This is a war movie, and it looks, acts and smells like a war movie. The smell, in fact, is palpable.

Credit where it's due, the many adrenaline-fuelled aerial combat scenes in Midway are absolutely outstanding, although they're coincidentally the ones where the cast do the least amount of talking. The film's script - laughably mechanical, its delivery often moreso - appears to have been assembled using the most textbook lines from the corniest war flicks by a team of 15yr old Call Of Duty enthusiasts, one of whom has an older brother "in the army". To think that this is in any way a serious tribute to those who died during the Second World War rather than an emotionally clichéd, thinly-veiled disaster epic would be to walk straight into the trap of its mid-November release date.


The whole thing appears to be anchored to enough historical fact to prevent it being a complete waste of time, but what a way to manhandle the truth. That said, I couldn't hate Midway because it is what it is and that's a Roland Emmerich movie. But it's very clearly - and very cynically - aimed at a particular type of audience, and in that regard I must concede that it succeeds fairly well*2. But rest assured, this is far closer to the flag-waving of Battleship than the reflection of They Shall Not Grow Old.

Approach with extreme caution.

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Banging a tin tray on your head for just over two hours.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
For the combat scenes, yes.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Everything there is to love about this movie is on a big screen, so no.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It is not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's incredibly likely.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Inexplicably not.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Tobias Beckett is in this.
I mean let's not get excited, Tobias Beckett was in Venom...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And let me stop you right there. Yes, thanks to the helpful caption-cards acting as the film's inevitable coda, I know that "Richard 'Dick' Best" is the actual pilot's actual name. I can also clearly envision Roland Emmerich sitting in a room learning that nugget of information and yelling "Lads! Lads! This film is fucking writing ITSELF!!!".
Dick Best.
Dick. Best.
The fact that it's true somehow makes it much, much worse. It's perhaps notable that the gentleman's wikipedia page makes one solitary mention of his informal nickname. Which is to say that the film could have just called him Rick or Richard, but didn't. There is so much testosterone in this movie that our cinema gave it a half-time intermission so it could go out for a shave. Adding insult to injury is that Best is played by Ed Skrein, an over-acting live-action cartoon of a performer who at least has finally found his natural habitat under Emmerich's auspices.

Dick Best surely deserves better. [ BACK ]

*2 Yes, I'm aware that this sounds incredibly snobby, but in my defence I am an incredible snob... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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