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Pearl Harbor

(2001) rated: PG-13

Director: Michael Bay

Starring: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Jon Voight, and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Synopsis: Boyhood friends Rafe and Danny (Affleck and Hartnett, respectively) are fighter pilots in the Army. Rafe meets a dedicated Navy nurse, Evelyn, and falls madly in love with her before he joins the Royal Air Force during World War II, leaving both Evelyn and Danny in a complicated position. And oh yeah, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, blowing lots of stuff up and complicating our heros' lives considerably.

Review: I had low expectations for this movie, and, as is usually the case in that sort of situation, I was pleasantly suprised. This isn't to say that its a great movie, because it isn't, just that I was more than mildly entertained when watching it.

The love story amidst the tragedy of Pearl Harbor isn't necessarily a bad idea, but its execution in Pearl Harbor leaves something to be desired. Its not even that the performances were all that bad, considering the dialogue; the whole thing just seemed too manufactured for me. Perhaps it was that Michael Bay, an action director by trade, was unable to coax great performances from his actors, or maybe it was just the script that needed work. The supporting cast is excellent, especially Alec Baldwin as Colonel Jimmy Doolittle and John Voigt as FDR. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a small part as well, and even though his subplot was superfluous and out-of-place, I found it somewhat interesting.

Stuff like historical innacuracy usually doesn't bother me, but this film is supposed to be based on a genuinely interesting and complex historical event, and this is barely even touched upon. The attack is devoid of context or strategy and the Japanese are relegated to short bursts of exposition throughout the movie. Why can't any of the Japanese characters have any sort of personality?

The attack itself is breathtaking, no doubt about it. Michael Bay does action very well, and the forty minute raid on Pearl Harbor is no exception. Bigass explosions, falling bomb p.o.v., and crashing planes flying right at the screen. It rocks. Even better, we are treated to a counter-attack on mainland Japan led by Colonel Jimmy Doolittle; again, this attack is missing some context, but it was still an effective sequence.

Pearl Harbor is lopsided, sappy, unfocused and lacking in context, but it is also suprisingly entertaining (much like the rest of Bay's work). It could certainly have been trimmed down from its 3 hour length though; even the action sequences were overlong and repetitive. To be honest, its not my cup of tea™, but I can see why people like this stuff.

• What was really motivating the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor?
• Does the love story fit? Is it too long?
• Why couldn't we see more of Dan Akroyd, decoding his little heart out?

Why Pearl Harbor is a lie: Some of that context I keep talking about.
Pearl Harbor: Official Page

Tora, Tora, Tora
Saving Private Ryan

The Store:
Pearl Harbor (in theaters)
Pearl Harbor (soundtrack)

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