As my movie date observed, "Pearl Harbor" feels like "Top Gun", "Saving Private Ryan" and "Armageddon" all rolled into one. Directed by Michael Bay and produced by Bay and Mr. Over-the-Top-Epic-Blockbuster himself, Jerry Bruckheimer, "Pearl Harbor" has the expected cheesey faults but surprisingly, is also a film done with tremendous care and respect.
Ben Affleck is the film's hero, Rafe, an ace pilot who risks his life and love to see combat in the early stages of WWII, prior to America's entry in the conflict. Along with his best friend, Danny, played by the intensely likable, Josh Hartnett, Rafe has dreamed of flying ever since he was a kid. Rafe and Danny are inseparable; nothing can break their friendship, that is until . . . .
Evelyn is just one of the many pretty army nurses fending off amorous advances from soldiers on a daily basis. British actress and American sensation, Kate Beckinsale, portrays Evelyn with grace, humanity and more than a little sensuality.
The film is a 3-hour and 10-minute commitment to what life must have been like prior to the infamous Japanese attack on the U.S. on December 7, 1941, and what actions were taken immediately following. After months of watching Hitler's army overrun Europe, Americans could no longer turn a blind eye after being slapped so hard. Life would never be the same.
The film honors those who experienced Pearl Harbor but also goes to some lengths to give the Japanese perspective. In films past, the so-called enemy was shown as evil and somewhat faceless. In this film, we get to know them, see photos of their wives in their cockpits, and get an idea of why the Japanese felt they had no other option. When a captain compliments the Japanese Admiral for his brilliant military strategy, the admiral looks stricken. "A truly brilliant man would know how to avoid this," he says.
Early Oscar prediction: Jon Voight is President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and he gives a remarkable performance. Voight is nearly unrecognizable and fills up every inch of the part - no thought, inflection or gesture is neglected. Bravo, Mr. Voight.
The film is worth your time. One Pearl Harbor survivor was heard saying after the film, "Wow. It sure was a lot easier to sit here and watch it than it was to live through it." If anything, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the end of our American innocence and can never be studied too much.
© 2004 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 5/30/01
USA - 2001