Dec 5, 2019

Its screenplay is formulaic; its visuals are top-rate.


Grade: B+

Director: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day)

Screenplay: Wes Tooke

Cast: Ed Skrein (If Beale Street Could Talk), Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 2hr 18 min

By: John DeSando

The Hurt Locker, Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket: quality war films that exceed Midway in story-telling originality but not in astonishing graphics and fidelity to the facts.

If you had a hunch that Midway is another Roland Emmerich eye-porn spectacle that defined that genre along with Michael Bay (whose Pearl Harbor could have learned a lesson or two from Emmerich), you are right. Midway takes a well-known and revered battle in WWII and milks as much cliché and melodrama as possible.

Yet there is a wholesome honesty about this spectacle, a desire to tell it like it was that makes you feel you are witnessing the countless small decisions by admirals and pilots to bring the formidable Japanese to their knees. Pilots falling from the sky and Japanese carriers sinking to the bottom with their heroic admirals all seem real and heart-rending. Emmerich and writer Wes Tooke depict the deal deciders with their hubris and humanity in sharp detail.

Midway will not be on the Oscar finalist list, for it is too formulaic a war film and deficient in deep character development, but what it has is a firm grasp of the historical details and a dedication to showing the difficult decisions that rely partly on gut and valor. Moreover, the CGI battle scenes are remarkably realistic.

If you have a great grandpa who rode a dive bomber at a Japanese warship and refuses to talk about the experience, then see Midway to get the authentic feeling of being in battle. And besides, the CGI and overall visuals are what Americans get right, despite Japanese brilliance in animation and cinema in general.  Both sides recovered nicely but not without unbelievable losses on both sides.

“That's the bravest damn thing I think I've ever seen.” Admiral Bull Halsey (Dennis Quaid)

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at