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Pearl Harbor (2001)

Film review: Pearl Harbor (2001), directed by Michael Bay

pearlharborIf you’ve seen Team America: World Police, you will have heard the song about how much Pearl Harbor sucked. I’ll include the lyrics at the end of the post. They’re a bit harsh … but not entirely untrue. Pearl Harbour doesn’t suck. I guess you could say it’s not half bad, but it ain’t half good either.

We meet Captains Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett). Best friends since childhood. They go to war together, become fancy air force pilots. Rafe falls in love with a nurse, Lieutenant Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale), but he’s quickly shipped off to Europe to actually fight. His plane is shot down, he’s presumed dead.

Woe are Evelyn and Danny. For a few months. Then, they seek each other’s support, and fall in love. What happens? Rafe returns – he wasn’t dead at all, he had been held up in France. Uh-oh. And to top it all off, the Japanese invade Pearl Harbor, and shit kicks off. Because this film was directed by the Transformers franchise’s Michael Bay (!), lots and lots of big explosions for about an hour, before the guys fly off to be Big Damn All-American heroes.

Has a cast very big on familiar faces. For instance, amongst the military men, we see Alec Baldwin, Ewen Bremner, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael Shannon (okay, not that familiar, perhaps), Colm Feore, Peter Firth (yes, Harry Pearce!!), Daniel Mays, Tomas Arana and Dan Aykroyd. The nurses aren’t exactly unfamiliar either – they include Jennifer Garner and Sara Rue, although the latter has lost a lot of weight recently and now, I wouldn’t recognise her. Jon Voight is president Roosevelt. Phew!

Michael Bay doing a romance film? Surely not! Yeah, my reaction when seeing who directed this film was one of total surprise. But, then again, there’s about an hour’s worth of explosions crammed in there to make up for it. And that’s part of the problem. Pearl Harbor is over three hours long. It could have been cut down quite a bit. Luckily, though, the explosions could mostly be fast-forwarded. They were big and explosive and lots of people died, because people didn’t want to listen to Dan Aykroyd. (That’s not a typo – I’ve always thought it was “Akroyd” and had to double-check, but no, it’s “Aykroyd”. Really!)

Let’s see what the Team America guys had to say about it:

I miss you more then Michael Bay missed the mark
When he made Pearl Harbor
I miss you more than that movie missed the point
And that’s an awful lot girl
And now, now you’ve gone away
And all I’m trying to say is
Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you

This is true. Was it a love story or was it a war movie? A love triangle or explosive action flick?

I need you like Ben Affleck needs acting school
He was terrible in that film
I need you like Cuba Gooding needed a bigger part
He’s way better than Ben Affleck
And now all I can think about is your smile
and that shitty movie too
Pearl Harbor sucked and I miss you

Yes! Cuba Gooding and Ben Affleck should’ve swapped parts, that’s all I’ll say.

Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?
I guess Pearl Harbor sucked
Just a little bit more than I miss you

Because he’s very good at big explosions, that’s why. But when one third of a very long movie are made up of explosives and the other two thirds are a drawn-out and not very engaging love story, it doesn’t become terribly interesting.

But it’s not bad bad. I mean, there’s flying in it, and cute guys in uniforms. But it’s too long and so choc-a-bloc with Brits for something so fundamentally American that it becomes a little bit peculiar to watch. And the whole tragedy of how many people died in the attack gets lost in the Bay explosion porn. Such a shame.

2.8 out of 5 air plane hangers. And here’s the song, for reference.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on. Might get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

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