Midway Movie Review: Roland Emmerich's WWII Epic Is Spectacular And Muddled

It’s Cliff Notes’ version of the Battle of Midway.

​​​​​​​Disaster porn maestro Roland Emmerich’s latest is the sequel to Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor, if there was ever a need for one. Then again, Battle of Midway is the historical follow-up to the ‘Day of Infamy’ attacks, where the American and Japanese navies clash over the fate of the Pacific. 

Unlike Bay, Emmerich trusts that history alone is stirring enough without weaving in a shallow love story (the women are mainly in background, as military wives). The result: a pricey History Channel re-enactment but with all the historians’ commentaries excised. Without academic insight, the movie loses its bearings in its own chaos. 

Emmerich wants to tell the epic skirmish from the perspectives of the American pilots, the US intelligence operatives, and the Japanese, but ends up with a muddled narrative. His heart lies in the PG13 carnage and the real-life flyboys like Ed Skrein’s Dick Best, who’s like the WWII version of Maverick, Tom Cruise’s rule-breaking aviator in Top Gun.

While the dogfights and dive-bombings are spectacular (a bit too Star Wars-sy for me, though), they aren’t the movie’s most involving part — the data-gathering stuff is. Alas, the efforts by Patrick Wilson’s Intelligence officer Edwin Layton and his team of codebreakers are buried by the battle sequences. 

If the codebreakers had their own movie, we would be able to decide how the Americans beat the Japanese: was it military might or luck? (**1/2)

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