Sam North reacts
to PEARL HARBOUR
Ben Affleck (Rafe McCawley), Josh Hartnett (Danny Walker), Kate
Beckinsale (Evelyn Stewart), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Dorie Miller), Tom
Sizemore (Earl Sistern), Jon Voight (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Director: Michael Bay On Release Now:2001 Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Take the acting
skills required to star in the THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO, (String puppets
in Space if you need to know) get the best special FX you can find,
stud your movie with token characters like a cartoon ships cook,
who without any training can man a gun on a sinking ship and shoot down
Japanese Zeros, spend a great deal on make-up so you can get Jon Voight
to play Roosevelt (pretty well actually) and give everyone the kind
of dialogue that is considered post-ironic in a Batman movie,
then you have PEARL HARBOUR. Use the Titanic formula, which
is, for those who missed it, take a huge historical moment where a lot
of people die, surround said disaster with a long, tedious, improbable
love story and you have the mix. Of course you also go to Hans Zimmers
house who wrote the Gladiator soundtrack and raid his garbage
for more of the same.
It isnt that Pearl Harbour is awful, the battle scenes when the
Japanese wipe out the US Fleet are spectacular, but that the whole enterprise
is emotionally disengaging.
Kate Beckinsdale as the nurse/siren lover is woefully thin and sadly
lacks anything in the way of memorable conversation. Ben Affleck proves
without a doubt that a: he cannot act and b: he has a thing for being
cast in movies with people who just happen to look like younger Matt
What were they thinking? Did they care? Are we not a little tired of
showing toadying British RAF officers tugging their forelock at American
pilots and saying wistfully, are there anymore like you over there?
So nice of him to volunteer to come over and single handedly defeat
the Luftwaffe before he crashed into the sea in a burning Spitfire and
lived (without a scratch).
The Thin Red Line was a great war movie. War is hell and pointless and
people are brave, some are cowards and officers are stupid, but in Pearl
Harbour, history is put in charge of Dan Ackroyd who somehow is unaware
that British intelligence told the US Government that Pearl Harbour
was the target well before the attack. (OK they didn't believe it but
they did all the same).
Yes 3000 men needlessly died because America thought itself impregnable.
The Arizona down there on the harbour floor is testimony enough, but
there is no engagement here nothing but pretty boys running for cover
and trying to find something to fly. We get no feeling for the drowning,
burning men because we are never introduced to any of them, save the
It is hard to credit the moment when the incoming Zero gunners try to
wave people to lie down.
Was this a sop to
the Japanese audience or just so they would make better targets for
when tye turned around. The Japanese are made to look pretty ruthless,
efficient and the US Navy was truly unready for this attack. Neverhless,
Spielberg's '1941' should now reappraised. Perhaps it wasn't as bad
is this movie has turned out to be. (I have a feeling Dan Ackroyd was
in that too).
There is one striking image in this movie, I wonder if the symbolism
of filling two coca-cola bottles with blood in the chaotic hospital
scene in close-up is saying coke is the lifeblood of the nation or Coca
Cola is sucking the life out of America. Did Pepsi sponsor this movie?
I could have sworn I saw a Pepsi bottle in Ben Affleck's hand at some
point. I think we need to be told.
It is disappointing. But somewhere in this movie is a story waiting
to get out. A ninety minute movie with very little in the way of pretty
nurses and phony newsreel voiceovers that sound nothing like March
of Time or similar.
Pearl Harbour is bloated, heavy in the water, an easy target and ultimately
nothing more than a kids comic book with some pretty nifty illustrations.