Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Sizemore, and John Voight
Pearl Harbor, an instant in history we all know but too well, opened to crowds on Memorial Weekend this summer. Rarely going to the theater, but being a fan of war movies since childhood, I went to take a look for myself. However "Pearl Harbor", with its impressive cast and dynamic special effects, came off slightly different than expected, and actually, a bit of a disappointment.
The storyline hinges around two young fighter pilots, Affleck and Hartnett, eager to fight and earn merit during the tumultuous times of the early 1940’s. Playing out around their love of flying and romantic interests, "Pearl Harbor" gets off to a really slow start, delving us into the personal lives of its characters as fate brings everyone to the Hawaiian Islands. Aside from very brief flashes to the Battle of Britain, all things considered, the first half of "Pearl Harbor" is somewhat sluggish in nature.
But once the Japanese predawn raid commences and the many special effects ensue, "Pearl" really begins to pickup, with earth shattering explosions, burning wreckage, machinegun fire, and throngs of Japanese attackers swarming the skies over Hawaii. As Japanese planes return to their ships, Pearl Harbor and the U.S. Pacific Fleet lie in ruin, with the images of the damage incurred bringing to light the true, tragic nature of this incident. Wrapping up, the US retaliates for Pearl Harbor and draws to a close with the Doolittle Raid of 1942 over Japan.
As "Pearl" first opened on Memorial Weekend in the US, there was much debate over the history vs. Hollywood issue. Is "Pearl Harbor" the movie, historically accurate, or just a historical event dramatized to captivate the average moviegoer? Though I knew much research was involved, I was looking forward to a movie detailing both sides of the coin, depicting U.S.-Japan relations prior and up to Pearl Harbor. What triggered the diplomatic collapse and provoked Japan to declare war? Why was there no resolve to the issues at hand? How long had Japan planned to carry out this action? Why was the U.S. so unsuspecting and unprepared? Unfortunately, these are just a few of the many points overlooked, I feel, in the creation process.
I am actually very curious as to what veterans of Pearl Harbor thought towards this depiction of their lives. As for myself, even though "Pearl Harbor" is spectacular in its battle sequences and special effects, I found the story line rather poor and definitely slow in progression. In trying to chronicle such an important turning point in world history, I feel more emphasis should have been placed on history itself, rather than the intermingling love story woven throughout this picture.
Anyone interested in Pearl Harbor should also check out the film "Tora! Tora! Tora!" I definitely prefer this one over the newest version for its portrayal of what transpired on, and leading up to December 7, 1941, from the eyes of both nations. If there are any other war movie buffs out there, I would also recommend films such as "Midway," "A Bridge Too Far," "The Longest Day," "Patton," and "The Battle of the Bulge." But as for "Pearl Harbor," it seems to fall a little short in measuring up to these classics.