REVIEW: Midway (2019)

Theatrical Release Poster – Lionsgate

The following is a review of Midway — Directed by Roland Emmerich.

As the title indicates, Roland Emmerich’s latest film tells the story of the World War II ‘Battle of Midway,’ which, famously, was the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary from John Ford. The film tells the story of many individuals, but primarily the stories of Edwin T. Layton (played by Patrick Wilson), who worked as an intelligence officer, and Dick Best (played by Ed Skrein), a dive bomber pilot, both of whom were integral to the success of the American forces.

So, I had a headache in the morning when I went to see Midway. By the time the movie was about to begin, it didn’t bother me tremendously. The ache had mostly subsided. I was just starting to feel fine. But then the movie began. I was then treated to a loud and bland war film. Though I will admit that it seemed like many audience-members enjoyed it, I had a terrible experience watching the film. To borrow the wording of a certain playwright, Midway sure is a film full of sound and fury. But, other than that, Emmerich’s latest film is absolutely dreadful.

I take no pleasure in speaking harshly about an Emmerich film. I don’t like beating up on his films. There are about a handful of his films that mean a lot to me, for one reason or another. Independence Day is obviously his call to fame, but it was his Stargate that first spellbound me. Stargate was one of my first favorite live-action films when I was younger, and I have great memories of watching The Day After Tomorrow with friends. So, it does disappoint me that, of the films that I have seen, I haven’t liked any of the films he has directed this decade. While I will say that Midway isn’t the worst of his films, I think he has made two of the most frustratingly disappointing films of the decade with this and Independence Day: Resurgence.

Some of the action, though potentially headache-inducing, is thrilling, and the film does work as a tribute to those who fought or lost their lives during the Second World War, but those are the only positive things that I can say about this film. However, I, honestly, think that the Japanese characters and their subplots are the most interesting things about the films. Though the English-speaking cast is fairly star-studded — with performances from stars such as Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Patrick Wilson, and Darren Criss — they are unable to elevate the material. Darren Criss is, frankly, miscast. Ed Skrein is unable to carry the film, and the British actor’s American accent is more distracting than character-building. However, Nick Jonas’ appearance is, predictably, even more distracting. I also think that Aaron Eckhart’s character feels shoehorned into the film, as his subplot doesn’t connect to the rest of the film seamlessly.

The visual effects are spotty and disappointing. But the biggest problems with this film originate from the script and the editing stages of production. The characters that Emmerich clearly wants to celebrate are all one-dimensional and indistinguishable. The dialogue is hackneyed and leaves a lot to be desired. I think that this is a terribly unfocused film that is haphazardly thrown together. Therefore this is by no means a return to form for Roland Emmerich. The head-splitting Midway is a bland, unfocused, and poorly written misfire.

3 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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