Japan attacks! Ben and Josh arrive to save the world...
dir Michael Bay|
scr Randall Wallace
with Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Ewen Bremner, Cuba Gooding Jr, Alec Baldwin, Jon Voight, James King, Michael Shannon, William Lee Scott, Greg Zola, Mako, Colm Feore, Tom Sizemore, Dan Aykroyd, William Fichtner
release US 25.May.01; UK 31.May.01
Comparisons with Titanic are inevitable, so let's get them out of the way: This is a big-budget Hollywood movie turning a serious historical event into a massive blockbuster romance. But James Cameron at least had the smarts to start with an involving plot and characters--the sinking ship seems almost incidental to the powerful story. On the other hand, this film fabricates then grafts a contrived story onto history, which is conveniently altered where necessary. It's big, bold, inspiring and spectacular ... but it's also mind-numbingly stupid.
Rafe and Danny (Affleck and Hartnett) are best buddies from Tennessee with one ambition: to be army pilots. They get their wish, but America's refusal to enter WWII is bugging them--they want to see some action. Rafe falls for luscious nurse Evelyn (Beckinsale) and volunteers for service in the Battle of Britain. Meanwhile, the shy Danny gets shipped off to tranquil Honolulu along with Evelyn. Then Rafe's plane is shot down over the English Channel, and a Japanese admiral (Mako) plots a surprise attack on 7 December 1941.
The film's first 90 minutes exist basically to set up the love triangle and its obvious conclusion; the second 90 minutes include a nearly real time depiction of the Pearl Harbor attack and the aftermath, which ties up the love story in a nice big bow. The cast is OK--none of the leads ever commands the screen, even if they're perfectly watchable. The special effects are awesome and thrilling, and Bay does have flair with action sequences. But the dialog is appalling (the hackneyed approach even sabotages the clever big-name cameos), and story that strings it all together simply doesn't hold water. There are more "Uh, wait just a minute!" moments than I could count--plot turns that defy all logic and credibility. And even if the film does pay homage to the men who died, the story plays fast and loose with the facts and never even attempts to examine bravery, patriotism, military aggression or anything else. These momentous events have been dumbed down and sanitised for summer movie audiences, and that's unforgivable really.