Pearl Harbor

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Boom! Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boo... gets' boring after a while, dunnit!??!

Oct 4, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

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Pros:Hartnett, Gooding Jr, some decent action scenes and humour

Cons:Tedious drawn-out battle scenes, Affleck, Beckinsale wrong for her role

The Bottom Line: If you like Affleck and war films (and you're American) then you'll probably like this, if not then...

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

I went round a friend’s house the other day. She wanted to lend me some DVD’s - Secret Window which I did want to see, Flightplan which I didn’t mind whether I saw it or not, and Pearl Harbor, which I had absolutely no intention of seeing. For some reason I came away with all three and the feeling that, “oh well it’s been a while since I really slammed a putrid film in a review”, expecting to do that with Pearl Harbor.

Having now watched and disliked Secret Window (unexpectedly), been unimpressed withbut not hated Flightplan (as expected), Pearl Harbor (shouldn’t there be a “u” in there somewhere? So that’s why I couldn’t find it on a search initially…) denied me the pleasure of slating it completely, because it really wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t all that good either, but I’ve got to admit that it was better than I thought it would be.

My reasons for not wanting to see it in the first place were fivefold:

1/ I don’t like Ben Affleck
2/ I don’t generally like war films
3/ I don’t like Ben Affleck
4/ I thought it was going to be a sickeningly patriotic American film, and not least
5/ I don’t like Ben Affleck.

Now in truth Affleck wasn’t all that bad in this – the character he plays is obnoxious hero material and he does it reasonably well. It is undoubtedly guilty of being a war film, somewhat unsurprisingly, but only had a few moments of sickening patriotism - it wasn’t until the final little speech by Kate Beckinsale that I felt myself reaching for the sick bag. There were however things to like about this movie, so it wasn’t a total bogey (as they say in the air force – though all the planes had “Army” painted on the underside, which I thought was a bit odd.)

Affleck plays Rafe McCawley (continuing the fine tradition of heroes with very silly names), a US pilot who is drafted into the “Eagle Squadron” to go over to help the British Air Force as a front line combat pilot. Prior to going over to Blighty, he falls in love with a nurse, Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale), who isn’t best pleased with him for leaving her. He’s not over the ocean long before something drastic happens…

Meanwhile, his best friend Captain Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) is going through his own difficulties in the peaceful backwater naval base at Pearl Harbour (sorry, it just doesn’t look right without the “u”…) Everyone there’s getting bored, but of course things are afoot in Japan that will change all of that…

Meanwhile, President Roosevelt (played by the ever-dependable Jon Voight) is getting impatient for action, with only one of his aides, Captain Thurman (Dan Akroyd in a serious role) seeming to think the Japanese are planning everything. Sings of peace are being offered but something’s going on in the background. America’s European friends are demanding a reason for America not being drawn into the war, while the American public are insistent that their nation should not get involved in a war that is “Europe’s problem”. Roosevelt is not satisfied with any of the answers he is getting, and something’s going to snap soon…

Most of the performances are fine, in particular Cuba Gooding Junior as a heroic chef and Josh Hartnett were good. Affleck was okay I suppose, apologies to his fans but I just don’t like him. Jennifer Garner was among the nurses, but I didn’t recognise her at all! Kate Beckinsale was… well, she wasn’t bad exactly, but surely they could have done with someone more American in her role?!? Her closing speech was just nauseating, but I guess that wasn’t her fault. The Japanese Admiral had by far the best line of the film – after being told that his idea for assaulting the Americans was brilliant, his reply was “A brilliant man will find a way not to fight a war”. If the rest of the script had been up to that standard, this could have been one of the best films ever.

Though there were things I didn’t like about the film however, such as the tediously drawn-out battle sequences and some rather obvious plot twists, I couldn’t quite bring myself to quite hate it. (I don’t know about historical accuracies, it’s not something I’ve really studied and over here, when we learned about WWII at school, Pearl Harbour was viewed as kind of a side issue – an important one admittedly, but one that was never gone into in much detail. Then again I’ve forgotten most of what I learned at school anyway!) Some of the characters were quite endearing, especially the pilot who stuttered when he got nervous and his blushing bride, and there were some good moments of humour, particularly early one. Some of the action scenes worked well and the final plot twist wasn’t quite what I was expecting – well I was basically expecting it to happen, but not to the person it happened to. Although the whole love triangle thing was lamentably predictable, it was dealt with quite well.

The music score I found mostly to be quite unmemorable (unusual as I’m normally a big fan of Hans Zimmer’s work) and some of the aerial sequences were clearly CGI, and Michael Bay has yet to direct a film I’ve really been impressed with (not keen on Bad Boys, The Island was quite good but should have been better, and Armageddon was okay but nothing special). He just seems to concentrate too much on the big explosions and suchlike, and leave most of the human interest on the cutting floor.

Overall, there is (what I would imagine to be) a rather small group of people who would really enjoy Pearl Harbor - patriotic Americans who like war movies and Ben Affleck. (I think the list got really short only on the last bit!) For the rest of us, it’s an okay movie with nothing much apart from Hartnett and Gooding Junior’s performances to make it worth watching.

Recommend this product? No

Video Occasion: None of the Above

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