Pearl Harbor

PearlHarborProducer Jerry Bruckheimer again teams with director Michael Bay in one of the summer’s most anticipated “event films”, Pearl Harbor filmed at locations in England, Mexico, California, Texas, and Hawaii.

This film attempts to equal the overall impact and realistic war scenes set by the most recent film precedent, 1998’s Saving Private Ryan directed by Steven Spielberg.  The heart pounding war scenes during the depiction of the massive attack on Pearl Harbor have the highest impact on the audience as the story centers around three main characters and how their lives lead up to this event. The audience also sees the emotional events surrounding the three main characters’ lives after the Pearl Harbor attack completing a unique visual work based on one of the most important events in the history of the United States.

Ben Affleck (Armageddon, Good Will Hunting) stars as Rafe McCawley, a brave airman who fulfills his childhood dream of flying as a pilot in the U.S. military.  Kate Beckinsale (Much Ado About Nothing) plays Evelyn Johnson, while Josh Hartnett (Faculty, Here on Earth) plays Danny Walker, Rafe’s childhood friend, in a star-making role that should heighten his prominence in the acting community.  Beckinsale will probably get the biggest career boost from this film in her credible role as a nurse caught in a love triangle among Danny and Rafe.

Alec Baldwin, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Jon Voight all play important historical figures in their supporting roles.  Baldwin and Voight, playing General Doolittle and Franklin D. Roosevelt respectively, get most of the best lines of dialogue and have strong performances that accentuate the historical elements in the film.

Don’t overlook the great performances of the Japanese especially Mako (Seven Year in Tibet, Conan the Barbarian) as General Yamamoto and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Art of War, Mortal Kombat) as Commander Genda.  Their performances help the audience understand the reasoning behind the actual attack that previous films have not presented.

Filmmakers do an excellent job in the general effects and cinematography departments especially sound and special effects.  The special effects blend into the action very well and director Bay has some effective shots from several angles and directions to make the action more realistic.  Many of these shots are produced in aerial battles and attacks with smooth motion an audience can easily follow easily (much easier than the chaotic camera shots and editing from his previous movie, Armageddon).  Bay does extend his direction style beyond his familiar slow-motion shot spinning around the main character who just encountered a tense situation with hazy images of the traumatic scenes involving the hospital on Pearl Harbor.  Filmmakers and crew do a great job, except for one noticeable mistake during a flashback sequence that depicts the previous event at a different time of day.

Pearl Harbor was written by Randall Wallace who also wrote the films Braveheart and The Man in the Iron Mask in addition to the TV shows, Dark Angel and Hunter.  The story has some memorable lines of dialogue, but doesn’t produce anything extraordinary beyond the circumstances of the Pearl Harbor attack which mirrors the overall impact of the fictional characters.  For example, Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan) and Dan Aykroyd (Driving Miss Daisy) play Earl, a plane mechanic and Captain Thurman, an intelligence specialist, who have functional roles in the events involving the Pearl Harbor attack.

Unfortunately, these characters are given no background or development, so the audience doesn’t really care where these characters end up.  These roles could’ve been played by anyone and it seems that filmmakers just want stars in these roles because they’re familiar to the audience.

Another supporting character, Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller, well played by Cuba Gooding Jr., had the potential to produce a higher impact in this movie.  He gets more involved in the main story than Earl and Captain Thurman, but only because of his character’s location during the attack and the situational contact with one of the main characters, Evelyn.

Many of the most memorable images and actions have been seen before in previous films which unfortunately contributes to the formulaic feel of Pearl Harbor.  The storylines involving the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack strengthens the movie and complete a revolving depiction of these historical events with  several viewpoints.  Recommended with reservations and rated PG-13 for war violence, graphic scenes of wounded people, some language and sensuality.  This 3 hour and 3 minute historical war epic provides ample amounts of entertainment and interest for a wide audience.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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