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Bombs away

Patrick Wilson in Midway (AGC Studios)


Bombs away

Pervasive bad language blows holes in thrilling but flawed historical drama Midway

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.


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  • Home School Te...
    Posted: Sat, 11/16/2019 08:25 am

    A review with no specifics.  Did the movie depict what really happened or not?  The answer is yes; in big ways and small ways.  The U.S. plan was risky, but because of Midway Island's strategic importance, it was vitally important.  Yes, depicted in the movie.  We were  severely-outnumbered and out-gunned?  Yes, depicted in the movie.  Our superior intelligence tipped the scales in our favor.  Yes depicted in the movie.  U.S. torpedo tactics and training were lacking in 1942. Yes, depicted in the movie.  

    Intelligence personnel were superb, but not polished military types; yet still accepted by Nimitz.  Yes, depicted in the movie.  The Doolittle Raid was done purely for pride; it had no military meaning and failed to consider the consequences.  Tens of thousands of Chinses were killed, one village entirely decimated in retaliation for aiding downed American pilots.  Yes, depicted in the movie.

    Most of the bombs and torpedoes never hit the target.  Only ten bombs hit the intended targets; but igniting the onboard explosives and fuel is what sunk the carriers.  Yes, depicted in the movie. 

    Crucial to victory was attacking the Japanese carriers during that one-hour window when they were retrofitting their planes from bombs to torpedoes.  This meant less airplanes to defend and their best pilots still on the ship.  The loss to Japan was enormous! A game changer.  Yes, depicted in the movie. 

    Hollywood too often is unbothered with facts; but this time they did their homework and got it right.  Hooray. 


  • Hawkdriver
    Posted: Fri, 11/22/2019 12:37 pm

    Excellent review. Far better than the one offered.

  • Hawkdriver
    Posted: Fri, 11/22/2019 12:19 pm

    I am a combat vet, a military pilot and intel officer.  I thought this movie was great!!!

      I do not like the swearing either but ... we live in a fallen world ... that is reality in the military.

    My subjective opinion: It's too bad marvel comics and many other unrealistic movies get decent reviews at world but when a histroical film based on reality comes out, it gets 'shot down' (pun intended).