- James Mottram
- 7 November 2019
Underwhelming wartime epic from Roland Emmerich, starring Ed Skrein and Woody Harrelson
Director Roland Emmerich is no stranger to large scale movies, from Independence Day to The Day After Tomorrow. Now he applies that sense of spectacle to his first wartime epic since 2000's The Patriot. Chronicling the Battle of Midway, the WWII conflict that shifted the war in the Pacific in favour of the Americans, this old-fashioned drama is a flag-waving salute to the brave men who fought against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Early on, Emmerich recreates the 1941 Japanese attack on American troops at Pearl Harbor, thankfully with more economy than Michael Bay's bloated 2001 movie effort. 'We have awakened a sleeping giant and filled them with terrible resolve,' comments one of the Japanese officers, as the action moves to 1942 and the 'one single day' that turned the tide.
Aspiring to the all-star war movies that were once Hollywood staples, Emmerich assembles a solid if slightly uninspiring cast to play the assorted lieutenants, captains and admirals that strategised and struck back. Leading the way is British actor Ed Skrein (Deadpool) as Dick Best, a self-confessed 'cocky son-of-a-bitch' pilot, who is pretty handy in a dogfight.
Around him, we have Woody Harrelson (in a great silver wig) as the no-nonsense Admiral Chester Nimitz, supported by the likes of Dennis Quaid, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans and Aaron Eckhart. Also on board is musician-turned-actor Nick Jonas as a young sailor who – like many – gets his 'hero' moment, gunning down a Japanese fighter from the deck of an aircraft carrier.
The CGI-honed battle sequences are competent, though they lack the nerve-shredding realism of, say, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. Meanwhile, the characters are two-dimensional; the women, led by Mandy Moore's stay-at-home spouse, are particularly poorly served. And, for all the enormous courage on show, the emotional investment you'd expect to feel never quite arrives.
General release from Fri 8 Nov.