Let me begin by saying this review intends no disrespect to veterans and survivors, but “Midway” is awful. It’s such a disaster that it’s easily one of the worst movies of the year. Nothing comes together in this fire-sale flick about the famed 1942 Battle of Midway, the naval clash in the Pacific which marked a pivotal turning point during World War II.
The film is based on true events and real people, including Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson), Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), Wade McClusky (Luke Evans), Dick Best (Ed Skrein), and William ‘Bull’ Halsey (Dennis Quaid). Their stories are important and deserve to be remembered, and it’s a real shame they weren’t told in a better fashion through a better movie. There’s much rah-rah American heroism on display as the soldiers and their leaders rely on their intellect, determination, and courage to serve their country. The film begins the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and covers the events leading up to the Battle of Midway.
After viewing this film, I can’t decide which is worse: the directing, the screenplay, or the acting. It’s a trifecta of mediocrity. Director Roland Emmerich thankfully relies on the (barely) competent special effects to make the battle scenes exciting but otherwise, there’s a bunch of second-rate aerial photography and copycat shots from Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor” (like a tired p.o.v. shot of a bomb being dropped in combat).
The writing is just plain bad, with clunky dialogue that states the obvious, and the actors don’t help things at all. The performances are terrible, even worse than a high school production play. Some of the lines are so poorly delivered that they become unintentionally funny. The actors have no chemistry, and most could benefit from another semester of Acting School 101. For example, there’s an exciting attack scene where Japanese soldiers are dive-bombing a U.S. battleship. There are sailors on deck and as a flaming airplane comes crashing down straight into the ship with bullets whizzing by, and the men don’t run away — they simply duck down.
The C-list cast does their best, but most of the performers are so similar looking to more famous actors that I caught myself doing a double-take more than once. There’s a low-rent McConaughey, Farrell, Holland, Cooper, and Tatum, but their presence only served to remind me of better actors who I wish were in this movie instead. Thank the movie gods for Aaron Eckhart (as Jimmy Doolittle). Once he shows up, he upstages and out-acts the entire cast in his all-too-brief supporting role.
The best true stories make history come alive for a modern day audience, but “Midway” ultimately fails. There’s no emotional heft to the characters, so there’s no connection with the audience. Non-discerning viewers may still mildly enjoy this tale of heroism as a way to celebrate Veterans Day at the cinema, but the movie should’ve been a direct-to-video or streaming release. It’s just not good enough for the big screen.