Notre Dame on fire ...
Seventy-five years ago, bombs weren’t dropped from drones flown by operators sitting behind joysticks in a high-tech war room thousands of miles away. No, you delivered them in person. You throttled your plane into a screaming nosedive straight down at the enemy ship floating below, released the payload at the last possible moment, then pulled back hard on the stick for a steep, blood-draining ascent away from the anti-aircraft guns blap!-blap!-blapping holes in your wings and fuselage.
The new film Midway straps viewers into the cockpits of dogfights and dive-bombing runs in the naval battle that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.
Sadly, my kids won’t be flying along with Midway anytime soon. Too bad: It would be a heart-pounding reminder to them that our nation owes its freedom to the courage of military heroes such as pilot Dick Best (played by Ed Skrein), who “flies like he doesn’t care if he comes home.”
The film’s violence won’t traumatize most teen viewers because there’s little human carnage. The hazy cigarette plumes won’t shock anyone, either. But the expletives come in a barrage exceeding anything I’ve heard before in a PG-13 film. Sure, sailors swear like sailors, but cutting out most of the bad language wouldn’t diminish the film’s realism.
The film has other flaws: choppy storytelling, subpar graphics from director Roland Emmerich (White House Down, Independence Day), and mostly unremarkable acting. The funny thing is, the foibles work together in a nostalgic sort of way, giving Midway the timbre of a classic war movie—if it’s OK to feel nostalgic about wars and movies of wars.
On the bright side, Patrick Wilson and Tadanobu Asano shine in their roles as American intelligence officer Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton and Japanese Rear Adm. Tamon Yamaguchi. Layton and Yamaguchi are brilliant strategists who each must outmaneuver a powerful enemy on the seas and also navigate unpredictable political waters. Their characters’ cool composure allows for nuanced performances.
On the not-so-bright side, whoever cast Woody Harrelson as Adm. Chester Nimitz and Dennis Quaid as Adm. William Halsey should perhaps be court-martialed. You can take Woody out of Cheers, but I still can’t take Cheers out of Woody. I also found it difficult to disassociate Quaid from the sloppy puppy face licks in the Dog’s Purpose film franchise. Neither actor exudes military brass.
The film also covers some of the major confrontations that led up to the June 4, 1942, battle on and around Midway Island: Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, early skirmishes near the Marshall Islands, and the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. Midway lifts many of its characters from the pages of history and concludes with photos and facts about them. The film rightly lauds the bravery of the Japanese sailors who gave their lives for their country, too, at Midway.
The Bible doesn’t hold out much hope for military peace on earth before Christ returns. Until then, may there be warriors willing to defend our country as if they don’t care if they come home.