Pearl Harbor4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
For all those who have lovingly embraced Titanic with multiple viewings, here comes another sprawling juggernaut that spectacularly mixes history and romance: Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor begins in 1923 Tennessee and briefly introduces us to Rafe and Danny, childhood buddies who have a passion for flying. Then we quickly move to 1940 to establish Rafe and Danny as ace aviators in the military. In a sweet flashback, Rafe flirts with Evelyn, a Navy nurse, and it’s not long before a romance blossoms between the two. But Rafe volunteers for Eagle Squadron in England, where he is assigned a bullet-riddled, bloodstained plane. Rafe and Evelyn exchange gooey love letters as the Japanese prepare their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. I’m a sucker for sappy love stories, especially ones that reflect the flavor of a bygone era, which is why I was among those who saw Titanic more than once. “I’ll be back,” Rafe assures Evelyn, which can only mean one thing to anyone who has ever seen an old black-and-white war movie. Let me put it this way: it’s not long before Danny delivers some heartbreaking news to Evelyn. As Danny comforts Evelyn, a new romance swells, and soon Danny becomes the third corner of a romantic triangle, because you know it’s too soon in the script to see Rafe truly dead.
Pearl Harbor may not be an accurate history lesson, but viewers, especially those too young to know anything about World War II, may learn something from the film, especially that the sneaky Japanese air raid crippled the U.S. Pacific fleet and left over 3,000 dead and countless injured. While I am no expert on World War II, I know the details leading up to the siege of Pearl Harbor, and while I mean no disrespect to those who fought bravely in the Pacific battle, here is what I learned from Pearl Harbor: Ben Affleck, who plays Rafe, looks mighty tasty in a military uniform. He has the bone structure and haircut to look like a leading man of the 1940s, and he’s as dashing as Tyrone Power or Robert Taylor; his frat-boy heroism reminded me of John Payne. For Josh Hartnett, who plays Danny at the ripe old age of 22, I have only one word: ahhhh – gorgeous! One thing is for sure about Pearl Harbor – you will undoubtedly go cross-eyed watching these two glorious guys light up the screen. The striking Kate Beckinsale believably plays the role of Evelyn, the porcelain beauty who comes between best friends Rafe and Danny.
If you crave the fast-paced action that producer-director duo Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay stand for, you’ll have to wait until Pearl Harbor establishes its characters and romantic triangle, which is quite a feat for Bruckheimer and Bay considering their films never have a plot. Yes, the romantic subplot of Pearl Harbor is clichéd, but so what, it’s also a change of pace amidst the bombs and gunfire. Randall Wallace’s script also saves a few moments for Cuba Gooding, Jr. to play Dorie Miller, a real-life cook aboard the U.S.S. Arizona and the first African-American woman to be awarded the Navy Cross. It’s a role I wish was better fleshed out, even though Cuba recently played a very similar character in Men of Honor. Also, Jon Voight is tasked with portraying President Roosevelt, and quite well, I might add, and Alec Baldwin plays Col. James Doolittle.
While the artillery is firing, Pearl Harbor is busy being very politically correct – it toned down the Japanese to make them seem much more sympathetic than I’m sure they actually were. And like any escapist film from the early 1940s, Pearl Harbor is steeped in patriotism, for which I commend Bay and his direction: it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Americans so bravely stick together. But maybe it’s just because my heart remains loyal to the films of the 1940s – when times were more innocent and people were more sincere.
The pyrotechnics that Bay is famous for take center stage in the second half of Pearl Harbor, which feels rather overlong at over three hours in running time. The film literally explodes with the magnificently filmed raid on Pearl Harbor – and then gives flyboys Rafe and Danny a chance to be heroes. “Let’s go do some business,” Rafe shouts vehemently as a retaliatory attack is planned over Japan.
Pearl Harbor is no Titanic in my eyes, but I still enjoyed it very much, and considering that I loathe almost all of Bruckheimer and Bay’s work, my enjoyment of Pearl Harbor completely shocked me. In fact, it seems that I liked Pearl Harbor much more than most critics, and once again I find myself at odds with the masses. Yet I’ve never been a follower, which is why I like to take an alternative look at movies. I mean, for me, there’s no better place than the back row of a multiplex theater to review a movie!