Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index

PEARL HARBOR

Directed by Michael Bay (2001, Touchstone Pictures)
Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cube Gooding, Jr., Alec Baldwin, and Jon Voight

Two young American pilots look to war with the Germans to win love and become heroes.

View count: Twice

 

 

3 stars+

August 5th, 2004 on TV

 
    I don't really have much to add to the review below. Everything that I thought of during the movie, I had written down during my first viewing. Although the relationships were well drawn out, especially during the times when the characters were wishing for action, I still think the writers took the easy way out by letting Rafe and Evelyn get together because of Danny's death, even though she was pregnant with Danny's child.

It seems ironic, now, that this movie came out only a few months before another big sneak attack on the USA. I wonder if the terrorist leaders had any doubts about their strategy, the way the Japanese are shown to have here. Did they realize that they were, indeed, "waking a sleeping dragon"? The parallels were quite eerie.

Kate Beckinsale is quite lovely, and it's no wonder that the two leads fell for her. I kept wondering about her height, though. Alone, and with the other girls, she looked very tall. However, whenever she was with Rafe (also very tall) and Danny (relatively short), she looked shorter than both! Just my imagination, I guess.

The special effects were impressive, and I liked the music a lot through most of the movie. Some of it seemed to take itself too seriously, though, making parts of the movie melodramatic. I particularly liked the air battles in Britain. Being shown on the small screen, I felt that the camera work was better, as the shaking was less noticable during these battle scenes. I was confused by the blurring of the image when Evelyn was working in the hospital during the attack, but I wonder if that was a fault of the copy I was watching. I especially liked the low-flying Japanese planes, while people watched and wondered what was happening. The contrast between the planes and the land was amazing.

The movie is well worth watching, for historical purposes, and to see a good relationship develop. Hawaii was also beautiful -the establishing shots, and Danny's and Evelyn's sunset flight showed it off wonderfully.

 

 

3 stars

June 12th, 2001 in the Theatre

 
    An overly long movie with a good story trying to come out somewhere. I think the movie was trying to do too many things, and only partially got away with any of them.

I liked a lot of what this movie had to offer. I really enjoyed the relationships. They seemed very, very real. The characters went through joy, sorrow, good times and bad, and they all developed in a very natural way. Unfortunately, they were compromised by a story that was very unfocused and riddled with clichés. 

It must be a difficult feat to make a movie about young lovers in the context of a world-wide dispute. Was the movie trying to show a budding relationship when the world was going to war? Or was it trying to show an even-handed story telling the truth about the sneak attack? In my opinion, it could have one or the other, but not both. 

I think the romance was the stronger story. Every time the producers cut to the US President, or the Japanese getting ready for the attack, it detracted from the story. There is not much more to say about these two points, except that they seemed out of place, and had really corny dialogue.

I think most of the sub-plot with Cuba Gooding Jr's character could have been cut, as well. Instead of focusing on yet another character and his relationships among the white crewmen, we could have seen the fight at the beginning (which was really well done), and the scene at the hospital, where it would have been a reflection of Evelyn's character, instead. The rest seemed, once again, out of place.

As I have mentioned before, I am really sick of the trend to use "realistic" coverage of battles, falling planes, etc, by way of shaking the camera. As Pearl Harbor was attacked, I tuned out a lot, because it was just more of the same. Perhaps if it had been shot with a steady camera, I would have been more interested. As it was, I got tired of the bombing of the ships very quickly. Yes, it was a deadly attack. We get the point. 

The airplane battles fared a little better. They were still so shaky that I couldn't get a sense of how beautiful the battle was. On the other hand, there was one scene, where Rafe and Danny are the only planes aloft at the end of the "battle" for Pearl Harbor, that was nicely done. It was made even better with the music, a Waltz, I think, that made the battle really seem like a dance.

I would have also liked the movie to have ended forty five minutes earlier. Yes, we wanted to end the movie on an up note, but how about realizing that everybody we love (well, almost everybody) is still alive? Instead, when the movie should have been in denouement, we get training and a strike back at Japan, which is really just a slap in the face. And was it my imagination, or were the American bombs much more powerful than the Japanese ones? The explosions seemed to be larger, and much more effective. 

But then there was the best part of the story, the part that should have taken center stage, although it, too, was full of movie clichés. We actually begin the movie showing these two friends when they are young. Rafe and Danny desperately want to be pilots, and pretend that the world is at war. Danny's father fought in the trenches in World War I, and so is extremely upset (and unstable) at this.

Rafe falls for this young nurse, and after several amusing twists in the hospital, she falls for him, as well. Unfortunately, Rafe has volunteered to join the war effort in Britain, while she is transferred to Pearl Harbor. They write constantly (where did he find paper in England during the second world war?), until he is finally shot down. Everyone presumes him dead, although we know that he can't be. For one, I hoped he would remain dead, because that would have been more original.

In sorrow, Danny and Eve come together, both losing a person they loved more than life. And eventually they fall in love. After several tentative steps, where they both feel like they are betraying their best friend, they finally come together. Making love in the parachutes was different, and sort of angelic. 

But as soon as Eve is shown emerging from the bathroom sick, we all knew that she was pregnant, that Rafe would return from the dead, and that Danny would have to die. The brave thing would have been to have Eve die in the attack, thus causing the two friends -who were no longer friends- to come together and reconcile in her wake. Alas, all three survived the attack, and they all ended up coming to terms with it. I was impressed at the way Rafe handled the situation, after his initial drunken brawl. Once he found out that Eve was pregnant, he knew that she would have returned to him if not for the baby.

And so when Danny dies on the strike at Tokyo (the writers taking the easy way out), while saving Rafe's life, Rafe tells him that he is forgiven, but not in so many words. In fact, throughout the movie, they often used good facial expressions to depict feelings, instead of using corny dialog to tell us what they are feeling. Eve's pregnancy is one, and Rafe's realization at what has transpired in his absence is another terrific one. 

However, the movie did suffer from some pretty trite dialog. One was the British soldier telling the audience how brave and mighty the American fighter pilots were. I rolled my eyes heavily at that one. It was implied that Rafe was the only American in this special unit "made for Americans".  Another was one of the intelligence agents telling the military that "we've bunched all of our ships together; they'll be safer that way", which I think is the writers way of telling us what they think went wrong at Pearl Harbor. 

Enough said, I think. There were some moments when the ships were sinking, and the underwater scene at the very end, which seemed derivative of Titanic -I think there must have been a better way to do it. There were a lot of clichés throughout, and the movie was way too long. But I think the major problem that prevented it from being epic was the idea to bring in the rest of the world. If they had stayed with only the three people and their friends, and cut out the rest, I think it could have been a really great movie. As it is, I think it was still very good, but nowhere near great.
 
   

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