Movie Review by Kris Griffiths
Starring: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale
Director: Michael Bay
A ludicrously large $140 million budget. A lengthy running time of three hours. A lot of hype. The expensive bomb that is PEARL HARBOR is finally dropped on the UK, but when the smoke clears, what are we to make of this two-thirds-romance one-third-action epic?
Childhood chums Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Harnett) grow up to be pilots in the U.S army, and while the army sits out the war, the slow-witted Rafe falls in love with ensign nurse Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) during a failed eye test. Soon afterwards he volunteers to join the RAF for the Battle of Britain where his dodgy Spitfire is swiftly sent crashing into the English Channel by a cackling Luftwaffe pilot. No sooner have the grieving tears of friend and girlfriend dried back in Pearl Harbor, Danny homes in on Evelyn and a guilt-ridden romance ensues. But a big spanner is thrown into the works by the miraculous return of Rafe. However the none-too-pleased crash survivor doesn’t have time to beat the crap out of his cheating chum because the Japanese are gleefully speeding towards Hawaii with itchy bomb-button fingers.
There follows a forty-five minute frenzy of direct hits, death and destruction, as an entire fleet of ships and three thousand slumbering Americans are shelled into oblivion. Not before Rafe and Danny have jumped into a plane and single-handedly taken out seven enemy aircraft, with the help of black chef Doris Miller (Cuba Gooding Jnr) who shoots down two planes from a shooting station. When the carnage is over, the heroic duo return to solving their girlfriend problem and an added twist arrives when they are both sent on the feeble Tokyo counter-strike mission by Colonel Doolittle (Alec Baldwin). Who will win the battle for Evelyn’s heart?
Essentially, PEARL HARBOR is TITANIC meets TOP GUN, but instead of a ship sinking halfway through a three hour romance, we have a fleet of ships being sunk. However, in TITANIC the film draws to a close not long after the ship sinks – PEARL HARBOR’S love story drearily drags on for another long hour. From the outset, the cliches come thick and fast: the tearful love letter, the gazing into a sunset, the pained cry of “I’m pregnant!” Then there is the laughable scene where polio-stricken President Roosevelt (John Voight) painfully rises to a standing position from his wheelchair, to show his pessimistic admirals what braveness is all about. The only thing that lifts this film from the badly scripted mess that it is, is of course the Battleship Row bombing spectacular, where your senses are bombarded as much as the hapless Americans. From the breathtaking pyrotechnics to the clever bomb-cam view of U.S.S Arizona’s destruction, this is certainly a stunning visual feast, so when it comes out on video, you can fast-forward all the rest.