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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY LIONSGATEThe World War II Battle of Midway in 1942 is depicted in “Midway.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY LIONSGATEThe World War II Battle of Midway in 1942 is depicted in “Midway.”

Movie Review: ‘Midway’ the CGI way

Thursday, November 21, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“Midway” is a theatrical feature movie that would fit right in with the Turner Classic Movie channel’s annual Veterans’ Day telecast of military-themed movies.

One might reasonably ask why, at this time, a film about the Battle of Midway in 1942, a turning point in the United States” defeat of the Japanese Empire in World War II, needed to be made.

A film of the same title, “Midway,” was released in 1976, with an all-star cast, including Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Toshiro Mifune, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, Robert Wagner and Pat Morita. The film’s soundtrack by John Williams, cinematography by director of photography Harry Stradling Jr., and Sensurround, which enhanced the battle sounds, were praised.

“Midway” was No. 10 at the box office in 1976. Sequences depicting Japanese air raids on Midway were from the feature movie, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970) and director John Ford’s documentary film, “The Battle of Midway” (1942), the latter which received the 1942 Oscar for documentary.

There’s no such cribbing in “Midway,” and the apparent authenticity makes the 2019 release worth seeing. There are incredible battle scenes from the opening moments nearly to the final frames. Most scenes were accomplished with Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). “Midway” is an example of a good use of CGI in cinema.

The visuals (Director of Photography Robby Baumgartner) of soaring and diving United States Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter planes, Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers and other airplanes, aerial dogfights and gunning between U.S. fighter planes and Japanese Zero fighter planes, and the aerial explosions and bombings of aircraft carriers and battleships are very realistic. Some battle scenes will make you jump in your seat, augmented by excellent sound design and the score (Harald Kloser, Thomas Wanker). The big action scenes are balanced with close-ups of the faces of fighter pilots and gunners. You feel their fear.

“Midway” traces the war in the Pacific from Japan’s surprise Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, to action in the Coral Sea, to the bombing of Toyko, to the June 4 - 7, 1941 Battle of Midway.

“Midway” is based on real-life military leaders, soldiers and civilians, including fighter Pilots Dick Best (Ed Skrein), Wade McClusky (Luke Evans) and Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank), Intelligence Officer Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson), Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), Vice Admiral William Halsey (Dennis Quaid), Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart), Machinist Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas), Chief Radioman James Murray (Keean Johnson), Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa) and Anne Best (Mandy Moore).

Although the derogatory nickname for persons of Japanese descent is used in the film, “Midway” seems to present a balanced view of the Japanese soldiers and their leaders, similar to that of the American and Japanese co-production, “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

From the United States’ side, “Midway” gives a sense of the importance of the chain of command, teamwork and the heroic efforts of American soldiers, including Chief Cryptologist Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown), whose discovery of an impending Japanese attack prevented a repeat of an attack similar to that on Pearl Harbor.

Director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day: Resurgence,” 2016; ‘The Day After Tomorrow,” 2004; “Godzilla,” 1998; “Independence Day,” 1996) works from a screenplay by Wes Tooke (TV series, ”Colony,” 2016-2018) in his theatrical movie screenplay debut.

“Midway” is a respectful recounting of an incredible battle that helped determine the outcome of World War II in the Pacific Theater.

It’s worth seeing for veterans, World War II buffs and those who want to know what real heroism is all about.

At the film’s conclusion, photos and information about the real-life soldiers are shown. Their courage made all the difference. So does “Midway.”

Note: “Dauntless: The Battle of Midway,” about two men adrift in the Pacific Ocean after they had to ditch their U.S. Navy dive bomber, was released in 2019.

“Midway,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for sequences of war violence and related images, language and smoking; Genre: Action, History. Run time: 2 hr., 18 min. Released by Lionsgate.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Portions of “Midway” are in Japanese with English subtitles. The song, ”All Or Nothing At All,” is sung by Annie Trousseau during the closing credits.

Box Office, Nov. 15-17: “Ford v Ferrari” received the checkered flag at the weekend box office, opening with $31 million, passing “Midway,” which dropped one place from its one week at No. 1 to No. 2 with $8.7 million, $35.1 million, two weeks, as the “Charlie’s Angels” remake finished at No. 3, opening with only $8.6 million.

4. “Playing with Fire” dropped one place, $8.5 million, $25.4 million, two weeks. 5. “Last Christmas” dropped one place, $6.7 million, $22.5 million, two weeks. 6. “Doctor Sleep” dropped four places, $6.1 million, $25 million, two weeks. 7. “The Good Liar,” $5.6 million, opening. 8. “Joker” dropped two places, $5.6 million, $322.5 million, seven weeks. 9. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” dropped two places, $5.2 million, $106 million, five weeks. 10. “Harriet” dropped two places, $4.7 million, $31.8 million, three weeks.

Unreel, Nov. 22:

“Frozen II,” PG: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee direct the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Evan Rachel Wood and Jason Ritter in the Animation Musical. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven leave Arendelle on a quest to an enchanted land.

“A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood,” PG: Marielle Heller directs Tom Hanks, Christine Lahti, Matthew Rhys and Susan Kelechi Watson in the Biography Drama about the children’s TV show star, Mr. Rogers, played by Tom Hanks in a sure-fire Oscar actor nomination.

“21 Bridges,” R: Brian Kirk directs Chadwick Boseman, J.K. Simmons, Sienna Miller and Taylor Kitsch in the Action Thriller. A New York City Police Department detective shuts all bridges exiting Manhattan in the search for killers of a policeman.

“Dark Waters,” PG-13: Todd Haynes directs Anne Hathaway, William Jackson Harper, Tim Robbins and Mark Ruffalo in the Biography Drama. An attorney handles a lawsuit against a chemical company.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes