My expectations for Midway was low going in due to the Rotten Tomatoes score of 42%. With that said, while this film has it’s mistakes and negatives, the positives do ultimately win out. When it comes to war films, there are certain things I look for and must have: solid visuals and good leads to carry the story through. Midway has both of those things. The negatives are pretty minor and exist in the background, so for that reason it’s easier to forget that they’re there.
The visuals and special effects are truly amazing; I mean really incredible. I expected that much given that Roland Emmerich is directing here. Any film of his is going to have top notch special effects. This is the most important part of the film because of the large amount of time spent focusing on extended battle sequences. Not only are the scenes vibrant and extremely immersive, but the choice of shots are very clever too. We get several scenes that show us planes nosediving down towards a carrier in order to drop bombs and I felt so involved. By involved, I mean locked in because of the intensity and crisp/sharp imagery used. The visuals really bumped up my score for this film because they just enhance the entire experience so much. And what the hell is a war film without solid visuals honestly?
The cast is very big here and star studded, jam packed with Hollwood heavyweights. I really liked the stars which includes: Ed Skrein, Luke Evans, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Luke Kleintank. This film was my introduction to Skrein. He looked vaguely familiar but I can’t recall seeing him in anything else. I loved him in this role, and in my opinion he stood out from other members of the cast because he played his part with such a real lovability. Skrein’s character is the All-American guy everyone loves and he just makes you fall in love with him. I’m exceedingly happy that he was given several intimate scenes of dialogue with others.
I have to talk about Woody Harrelson next because wow I loved him in this film. I’ve always been a fan of his, but exceedingly so here because of his steadfast demeanor. He plays this role with a rock solid leadership that’s very much needed and he does it without being a hard ass and is able to stay likable.
Patrick Wilson, who I’ve loved in The Conjuring and Little Children, gives a very dedicated performance. I was actually reminded of his character in The Conjuring films because of his very serious demeanor. I think the more serious roles work for Wilson and I thought he fit in well here. He and Harrelson have some good scenes together, too.
Luke Kleintank is very lovable here, in the same way that Skrein is an All-American guy that everyone loves, and that works so well for him. I absolutely love the friendship between Skrein and Kleintank’s characters too. It’s very tender and I like seeing that between two guys because I feel like guys aren’t allowed to show a true loving friendship. It’s as if it’s anti masculine or something. That’s actually something that is very common in this film; loving friendships and connections between the soldiers and I loved seeing that. It’s very refreshing to see mans man type guys have those fulfilling friendships and keep their masculinity intact.
One of the main negatives Midway unfortunately has is a few of the cast members. There are two noticeably bad performances here, especially when compared to the good performances. I’m not a fan of Mandy Moore. I don’t necessarily dislike her, but I really didn’t care for her in this film. She felt very out of place, her performance came across as flat and the chemistry between her and Skrein is practically nonexistent. Also, it was sort of strange that Moore didn’t seem like she was in the time period where as the other actors clearly adjusted to the 1940s. The other cast member that I was very disappointed in was Dennis Quaid. Quaid has this over the top caricature like persona about him that comes across as very fake and disingenuous. He plays up the crotchety old man thing and it just doesn’t work. Thankfully though, they are very much supporting roles and aren’t pervasive throughout the film.
Midway does have a couple lazy performances but there are also plenty of really good ones too. The main characters are well constructed and extremely lovable. The visuals and special effects are absolutely stunning with plenty of incredibly immersive battle scenes. And lastly, there is some really genuine seeming friendship chemistry between the soldiers. Overall, Midway is a solid war film.