Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Alec Baldwin, and Dan Aykroyd.
I remember shortly after Titanic became the #1 movie of all time. Someone at a website wrote, “Start claiming your historical disasters now, folks! They’re going to be the setting for doomed romances for years to come!” Everyone thought that a movie about the Hindenburg would be next. But no, it took four years, but the first out of the gate was from the people behind The Rock and Armageddon. The disaster of choice? The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, which finally dragged the United States into World War II.
I’m surprised that they were able to pad this plot into 3 hours. Rafe and Danny (Affleck and Hartnett, respectivley) are life-long best friends who share a fascination with aviation. So, we first catch up with them in January of 1941, where they are two of the Army’s top pilots. Things are going great for these two. In fact, Rafe has been dating Navy nurse Evelyn (Beckinsale) for a month now, and he’s convinced that she might be “the one.” But even though the war is still not on many Americans’ minds, Rafe is itching to get in on the action. So, he kisses his girlfriend good-bye, leaves his best friend at home, and joins the British Air Force to help fight off the Nazis. Danny and Evelyn are stationed at Pearl Harbor, where they awaited Rafe’s return with baited breath. But, he is never to return, as word comes that Rafe’s plane went down and his body was never recovered. Distraught over Rafe’s demise, Evelyn and Danny turn to each other for comfort, and soon find themselves falling in love with each other. Just as their relationship seems to be taking off, Rafe returns! It seems that he was captured, and stuck in a prison camp! Now that he’s out, he wants he and Evelyn and Danny to all pick up where they left off, but now this woman has come between two friends. And just as they are all getting ready to start sorting this out, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and World War II comes home. Oh, and along the way we meet some real-life historical figures like Dorrie Miller (Gooding), President Roosevelt (Voight), Col. Jimmy Doolittle (Baldwin), and Navy codebreaker Captain Thurman (Aykroyd).
OK. Let’s look at what this movie wanted to be: a huge, epic romance set against a tragedy, like Titanic. On that level, this movie is a bit of a let down. You look at our love triangle, and you just want more out of it. There seems to be a genuine lack of true emotion going on between these three. True, while all our leads are good-looking people, and they all do their best, you can’t help but just want more from them. And also, if you wanted the main plot to be the romance, it was a big mistake to let that plot grind to a halt for an hour so you could focus on the bombing. Now, let’s look at this movie for what it wound up being: a huge World War II action film from the director of The Rock and Armageddon. On this level, the movie kicks ass! Lots of good dogfights, lots of big explosions, and no clear-cut heroes, as we are also presented with the Japanese P.O.V. as we are given their reasons for why they did it. If I have one minor complaint about the action bits, it’s Alec Baldwin. Somewhere in his career, he started turning into Bill Pullman, as Baldwin’s Doolittle is a lot like Pullman’s Whitmore in Independence Day. In short, Pearl Harbor is a great old-fashioned war movie, but I know that’s not what it wanted to be.