Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. (Supplied)
Updated 14 November 2019

Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

CHENNAI: Movies on World War II have delighted cinema audiences for years. Nobody can forget the daring Allied escape in the 1965 “Von Ryan’s Express” with Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard driving a train through Nazi-occupied territory.

There were others in that decade and earlier such as David Lean’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai” about British prisoners of war building a railway in malaria-infested Burma (now Myanmar). These were great classics, but recent efforts have not been as memorable.




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Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. Despite audiences still being thirsty for WWII sagas and a star-studded cast (Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Ed Skrein and Nick Jonas), the film is unmoving, mainly because of the shallow characters. If the dialogues are stiff, the dramatic potential – including the relationship among the men – appears to have been left midway.

The film begins with Japan’s December 1941 air attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, which dragged America into the conflict, and the flick follows America’s revenge mission culminating in the June 1942 Battle of Midway.




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For the US, it was a victory against all odds giving them control of the Pacific’s Midway atoll. It was also a major triumph of human spirit, but the film does not quite capture it.

Most of the exploits relate to real-life fighter pilot Dick Best (Skrein), whose devil-may-care attitude earns him the title “cowboy.” His wife Ann (Moore), the only female character, urges him on but seems a washed-out figure. However, there is plenty of action in the air with dog fights, bombings and pilots ejecting from burning planes high above the ground.




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For fans of singer Jonas, his small but significant part may appeal. He is sailor Bruno Gaido whose spontaneous and heroic action during a Japanese raid earns him promotion.

“Midway” plays at three levels, including one about Japanese military officers, and was shot in Hawaii and Montreal with a lot of computer graphics thrown in. The camera work (Robby Baumgartner) is impressive, but somewhere the soul is missing, and the characters fail to come across as real people.

Despite this, the film opened atop the North American box office last weekend with a reported $17.5 million in ticket sales.


What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Hiroshima

Updated 19 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Hiroshima

Authors: Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry

On Aug. 6, 1945, in the waning days of World War II, the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The city’s destruction stands as a powerful symbol of nuclear annihilation, but it has also shaped how we think about war and peace, the past and the present, and science and ethics. 

The Age of Hiroshima traces these complex legacies, exploring how the meanings of Hiroshima have reverberated across the decades and around the world, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry bring together leading scholars from disciplines ranging from international relations and political theory to cultural history and science and technology studies, who together provide new perspectives on Hiroshima as both a historical event and a cultural phenomenon. 

As an event, Hiroshima emerges in the flow of decisions and hard choices surrounding the bombing and its aftermath. As a phenomenon, it marked a revolution in science, politics, and the human imagination — the end of one age and the dawn of another.