Anytime I start talking about a Michael Bay film, it feels like I’m being a bully and only criticizing the films for being what they are, explosions on screen for a quick dose of serotonin. However, Pearl Harbor was before he found his stride with these explosions and over-the-top action sequences that feel misplaced in a film. This is perhaps why Pearl Harbor is also one of his weakest, most try-hard patriotic, and overly confused films to date.
There’s a reason why this film can be harassed on the internet without anyone objecting to it, and that reason is that this was a character-focused film that totally denies any respect to the characters that were actually being portrayed on screen.
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The Movie Review
At its core, Pearl Harbor is a story about love and the devious love triangle that follows it. It follows best buds Rafe McCawley and Danny Walker, who have been friends ever since they were children as they grow up and enlist into the army. The film is presented in an unconventional way, showcasing different times in their lives from a perspective that isn’t really obvious.
It showcases how Rafe falls in love with a nurse who aids him in getting into enlisting, and how he eventually falls victim to a shooting during a mission and is presumed dead.
A grief-struck Evelyn turns to Danny for compassion, and a new romance is born therefrom. The film then primarily focuses on how Rafe after surviving the shooting he was thought to have died in copes with this weird new reality in which the love of his life is in love with his best friend.
Director Michael Bay doesn’t really understand his characters, nor does he understand how to portray sensitive topics such as the Pearl Harbor bombings or the Doolittle Raid. Instead, what he chooses to showcase is a highly offensive version of the events, and how Americans were simply being patriotic and avenging their fallen comrades who were bombed during Pearl Harbor.
It is an unauthentic film that doesn’t really do what it was supposed to, which is to focus on the darn characters.
The film’s performances are quite good though, aside from Ben Affleck as Rafe. Kate Beckinsale is fantastic in the role of Evelyn, portraying a conflicted woman whose entire world is altered by the severe twists and turns in her love life. Whereas Danny is beautifully acted by Josh Hartnett who brings an act of conflict of his own, along with a ton of emotional baggage that his character is carrying on his shoulders.
Ben Affleck as Rafe though is extremely lackluster, playing the same character he plays in almost every film, the bland and boring guy who doesn’t really know what’s going on for the most part.
The real highlights here are the visual effects, the practical effects, and the fantastic direction in photography at the hands of cinematographer John Schwartzman.
John makes sure that every shot feels like it has been handcrafted to look like a painting, while the lighting in every scene is moody and atmospheric. The particular use of dusky colors is what makes this film feel so good to look at, despite the camera angles not really telling much of a story on their own.
The soundtrack on the other hand is absolutely magnificent. Hans Zimmer is a master at his craft, and he has woven such wonderful symphonies for this film that you can’t help but feel things for the characters even when the events and the writing completely contradict everything.
The one part of the film that I highly appreciate is the direction in photography and the amazing music, though that’s all where the praise truly ends.
Pearl Harbor is a misleading film, to say the least, it’s a romantic film that doesn’t really do justice to the romance being shown. It’s also a film that is highly offensive to the events that occurred almost a century ago, and it’s a bit too long of a film to keep you interested in its story.
The pacing is all over the place, full of scenes that just extend the runtime instead of adding things of value. If it wasn’t for the cinematography, the music, and some of the performances, this film would’ve been a total bust.