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Stars: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Etsushi Toyokawa, Mandy Moore, Aaron Eckhart, Darren Criss, Nick Jonas

Director: Roland Emmerich

Oscar-worthy special effects vividly recreate the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 that catalysed the USA's entry into WW2, kicking off a picture that (apart from its impressive and effectively-used movie magic) basically comes across as a standard American 'How we won the war' action picture, recreating, in finest Hollywood style, 'The most important battle in American naval history'.

And, interestingly, we are also informed. Midway was also The greatest intelligence failure in American history'.

Wes Tooke's 'based on real-life events' screenplay sensibly relies on potent pictorial action rather than ground-breaking characterisation, telling its story predominantly from the points of view of two US servicemen - pilot Skrein (somewhat bizarrely cast since the actor is British) who led his dive bomber squadron at Midway and, on the ground, intelligence office Wilson, both of whose performances (and those of most of the players, notably Harrelson, sporting a wig as Admiral Chester Nimitz) adhere strictly to orthodox genre depictions, sensibly leaving the narrative and vivid action to keep the audience watching.

What makes the movie (an American-Chinese coproduction) somewhat different from previous WW2 genre pictures is that it also features coverage of the events from the point of view of the Japanese Imperial Army, graced by appropriate portrayals of the Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Yamamoto and other key characters involved in the war.

Ironically, perhaps, given that the narrative lauds American WW2 combat history, the muscular direction is by German-born Emmerich, centred on creating blazing action rather than particularly memorable genre characters.

Alan Frank

China/USA 2019. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour.
138 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 10 Nov 2019