‘Midway’ provides flurry of action, but fails to deliver as great film

“Midway”, based on the real-life battle at the titular island, tells the story of the men who fought in battle and behind the scenes to provide a American victory and turn the tide of the Pacific Theater of WWII. Directed by renowned “disaster film” director Roland Emmerich, the movie was buoyed by its several intense, immersive battle scenes. However, it suffered from the same flaw of other works by Emmerich: uninteresting dialogue, half of which comprised of screamed commands and cries of celebration, and simple, even stereotypical, characterization.

One notable performance was Ed Skrein’s portrayal of Dick Best, the fighter pilot who gunned down two Japanese carriers in one day of battle. As the film’s protagonist, Skrein brought both charisma and grit to Best’s character. But despite Skrein’s above average performance, I couldn’t help but leave the theater underwhelmed by a lack of character development overall. Best starts the movie as a cocky, wisecracking junior pilot and becomes more serious as he is given more responsibility; however, this is the only example of true development for any character throughout the movie. Best’s relationship with his wife, while shown several times throughout the film to be important, is never fully explained or fleshed out. The movie repeatedly draws attention to how Best keeps a picture of his family with him even during the heat of battle, only to give the wife and daughter very little importance to the movie as a whole; the two are instead lazily written off as token characters.

In addition to the serious lack of development in characters other than Best, “Midway” comes up short in its overall plot. First of all, more than half of the runtime is comprised of battle scenes; while the movie clearly recognizes its strengths, it often means that dialogue is whittled down to cliched one-liners in the midst of war. Secondly, the events in the movie leading up to the ending suggest that there would be some sort of grand finale, but this never occurs. Instead, the Japanese merely surrender, and our hero Best returns rather to the American carrier in a rather anti-climactic manner.

The aspect the movie that I enjoyed the most, though, were the scenes with the intelligence officers. Often, war movies are so focused on the soldiers themselves that they overlook what goes on outside of the battlefield. In “Midway”, however, attention often turned to the intelligence operators during high-leverage situations such as the discovery that Japan would be targeting Midway Island in the first place. The “chess game” of strategic warfare is realistically just as, if not more important than the actual fighting that takes place, and I was pleasantly surprised to see “Midway” include this to some extent.

Is “Midway” worth paying to go see? It ultimately depends on what you expect to get out of a war movie. If you want fast-paced action and strategy, then yes. But if you want a real story, complete with character backstory and emotional attachment, then “Midway” won’t live up to expectations.

Grade: B-