‘Midway’ Review – An Admirable Wartime Extravaganza

Roland Emmerich and his style of bombastic action continue in his latest. Midway is based on the Battle of Midway, a historic event that turned the tide of America’s battle with Japan. The film takes influence from John Ford’s documentary of the same name as the battle, “The Battle of Midway”, to which his likeness makes a strange cameo in the film – it is a noted influence.

Although seemingly over-the-top in its use of bombast and action extravagance, looking at Ford’s documentary you can see the chaotic nature of the shredding bullets flying towards the enemy aircraft. Trails of smoke lie scattered absolutely everywhere and that notably is something many never take into account, but Emmerich does. You see those clouds of smoke littered over the airspace in Midway, upon second viewing I came to further admire the out-there nature of Emmerich’s film.

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US pilot Dick Best (Ed Skrein) is a cocky, all-American over-achiever. On a casual routine flight out of Pearl Harbour, Dick’s best friend (Luke Kleintank) returns to what seems like a fault with Pearl Harbour’s weapons firing madly into the sky. Yet, all changes a Japanese fighter plane strafes down from behind firing at US aircraft. Pearl Harbour’s naval assets are nearly obliterated, tons die and the Japanese ride off high with this surprise victory. The course of World War II would soon change with the Battle of Midway in June 1942. The US and Imperial Japanese naval forces ensued in a battle of no measure, thousands of Japanese and hundreds of Americans were left casualty to the ruthless battle.

The like most war films there is an emotional undertone to Midway, one that by the end may leave you choking up a little. Emmerich makes an attempt to show at a nearly equal length, both sides of the battle, Japanese and American. Although, undoubtedly it is a patriotic American film, made by an American and for Americans, yet, you still by the end feel a connection to multiple of the Japanese. The film has an extensive cast, which although great, could be seen as a detriment. For some there is little development, some characters are a little shallow, it’s certainly at the expense for the massive scale of the action.

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Yes, there are flaws to the film and yes, it’s not full of depth, but it never fails to hold the attention of the spectator. It’s engrossing, gripping and inspirational, you become swept up in the story. Narrative-wise is where the film finds its gold, the story told is full of intrigue, with Emmerich building constant suspense through the ever-growing stakes of the all-out battle. He makes you care and feel invested in the enthralling action.

All though there is an obvious reliance on the digitally created, Midway holds a nostalgic touch. This touch is all down to direction, cinematography, and mise-en-scene, in the non-war scenes some form of meaning is created in the nimble lives of the soldiers. Using the mise-en-scene to constitute nostalgic war-time music, we are able to be swept up in Emmerich’s heightened reality. Although there are flaws in the CGI, you get used to the expansive use of it and there is a sense of admiration for the continued over-the-top use of CGI formed action sequences. The film never shies away.

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Midway is an over-the-top wartime extravaganza of an engrossing nature. Roland Emmerich delivers a constant visual flair to the CGI-heavy sequences of bombastic and riveting action, but also to the ordinary war-torn moments of non-battle. Its got its heart in the right place.

4/5 Stars ★★★★

Ben Rolph

MIDWAY is out in UK & US Cinemas NOW

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