Image: Ed Skrein in Midway © Property of Lionsgate [Source: IMDB]
Midway. June 1942. The famous battle as told through the leaders, sailors and aviators of each nation.
Director: Roland Emmerich. Starring: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas [12A]
Midway is a movie right out of the 1950s – post-war, jingoistic and brimming with all the overplayed, over-performed and tired techniques that go along with that. In case I’m not being direct enough, that is not a compliment.
There is room in film for the romantic war movies that play into the blown up heroism of soldiers both fictional and real. Hell, we have seen them as they are still made today in true gripping quality of edge of your seat blockbusting action….Midway is the polar opposite of that. It’s hard to really pin down Midway for what it is as I’m not certain it knows what it is. Throughout the picture, it wants to focus in on a particular character and flesh out their life and background as well as it can. This is just done to no avail as it constantly switches focus to another character’s life and all the dressings it puts up around them come across as dead air. Furthering this it feels as though there is three different films trying to be told in this one picture, it partly wants to be a story of the maverick pilots, partly a gripping action film of the battle and then an office thriller trying to pin down the intelligence around the battle. Sure it’s feasible these could be all part of one film but here it is all over the place in its focus and tone. Aaron Eckhart’s character seems to come in and then a completely different film begins and ends in 5 minutes. It doesn’t have any clarity about what it wants to be and fails miserably across the board delivering them all without any gravitas.
It certainly doesn’t help that each performance seems to bring back some of that 1950s flavour with phoned-in performances and large, pantomimed appropriations of the past. Simply, it comes across as incredibly goofy. I found myself and to my surprise (as I wasn’t sure if a mainstream audience just looking to be swept away would share the same distaste as I did) the audience around me, actually laughing out loud at the performances, dialogue and the scene composition they were being subjected to them. It was truly a sight to behold some of the excruciating pantomimed dialogue that was being given in what clearly wanted to be a serious semi-biopic of sorts around these real men. To the film’s credit, it does a great job of casting these characters. All actors fit their roles and play into them ease, aided by the superb costume design and at times the cinematography does capture a post-war poster aesthetic (as seen in the promotional material).
Sadly there is not much else here. Coming from the director of large fun blockbusters like Independence Day – you might at least expect riveting action scenes. But they all use overplayed techniques, with little to no imagination to them and frankly are worsened by what has preceded them. It’s an incredibly dull affair that overplays its hand trying to make grand heroic moments that are not earned emotionally from the audience through the direction and performances and fall absolutely flat on their faces for its audience to laugh at.