December 7, 1941 - It Was A Sunday Morning...
Cuba Gooding Jr.
William Lee Scott
Running Time: 183 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12
Country: United States
The makers of Pearl Harbour have adopted a strange tactic in putting together their movie. Its basically if we make it long enough, some of its bound to be good. I can imagine they were all sitting around watching James Camerons bloated mush-fest Titanic shortly before arriving at that conclusion. Its the law of averages, after all: make a film that lasts for over three hours, throw in war scenes, a tenuous recounting of history, some devilishly handsome leading men, a babelicious leading lady, a soppier-than-wet-bread romance, Hell lets even chuck Dan Aykroyd in there. Some of its bound to stick, right?
To be honest, what probably disappoints me the most is that some of it actually does. This is a movie with the soul aim of capitalizing on a major historical occurrence in which thousands of people were killed. It has no lesson to teach, no message to put across. It purports to tell the story of events which, crucially, brought about Americas involvement in World War II but it has no interest in giving us any insight into the politics behind it (sure, the grumbling Jon Voight makes fleeting appearances as the wheelchair-bound President Roosevelt, but such scenes often seem little more than an afterthought). No, this film is about making money, and thats that. So I should probably dislike it a lot more than I actually do.
Fairs fair, though. The war movie parts of Pearl Harbour are really pretty good. Were fired right into the heart of the shock felt by the American soldiers, sailors, mechanics and nurses as theyre taken unawares by Japanese attack. Director Michael Bay, whose other credits include Armageddon and the Bad Boys movies, excels during these scenes, making us feel as if we, too, are there amid the panic. As a war movie alone, its an edge-of-the-seater.
But then youve got the plot. Oh dear, the plot over an hour of stilted uncomfortable romance between nurse Kate Beckinsale and her chiselled pilot beau Ben Affleck. Then we have to put up with watching it happen all over again, this time between Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett. Its enough to have you hiding behind the sofa far more than any war scene ever could.
The end result is an uneven movie with its focus split between achieving believable war scenes (a success) and engrossing us in a bizarre love triangle (a failure). A shorter, sharper film introducing us to the characters and then focussing on the battle scenes could have been very good, as could a film that replaced the romantic goo with some well-informed political background info. Its just a pity that the makers of Pearl Harbour were too scared of box office figures to do either.
It's Got: The gloopiest, cheesiest lines being saved for fat Alec Baldwin and his cringe-worthy speeches.
It Needs: To be watched with the fast-forward button at hand, at least to get you through that awful first hour.
DVD Extras Its a 3-disc daddy of a set, featuring The Making of Pearl Harbour, theatrical trailer, production diaries, interactive timelines, oral recollections of a Pearl Harbour nurse, One Hour Over Tokyo featurette, special effects deconstruction, stills galleries, and even a Faith Hill music video. DVD Extras Rating: 9/10
Its big, its loud, and its a bit of an all-American mess but its not quite as bad as you might expect.