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Sam North reacts to PEARL HARBOUR

Starring: 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 Zimmer’s house who wrote the ‘Gladiator ’ soundtrack and raid his garbage for more of the same.

It isn’t 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 Damons.
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 ship’s cook.
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 kid’s comic book with some pretty nifty illustrations.

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