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Pearl Harbor
2001 - PG-13 (for sustained intense war sequences, images of wounded, brief sensuality and some language) - 183 Mins.
Director: Michael Bay
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Written By: Randall Wallace
Starring: Ben Affleck, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Dan Aykroyd, Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight
Review by: Joseph Kastner
December 7th, 1941 … It was, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt so bluntly put it, a day that would live in infamy. The attack on Pearl Harbor over sixty years ago was less of an attack on the American people themselves as it was an attack on our military defense, an area we once thought was invincible and something our enemies would never attempt to provoke. But on that fateful morning, the unthinkable happened and from then on things changed but as time went on Americans returned to the isolationistic attitude that had gotten us in trouble in the first place … It has been said, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That happened on September 11th, 2001, where 3,000 American lives were lost. But the American people are not an intimidatable bunch and we rose to the challenge, just like we did after the event at Pearl Harbor, to root out evil and wreak havoc on those who dared to try and terrorize us. No better moral support could be spoken better then what was said by President Bush, who stated, “We have known freedom’s price. We have shown freedom’s power. And in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom’s victory”.

The story centers around a love triangle between two men who fall in love with the same nurse and their struggle to win her heart, all set against the tragic attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Rafe McCawley is a hot-shot flying ace in the United States Arms Air Corp. but it wasn’t easy, as it required a young U.S. Navy nurse named Evelyn Stewart to pass him despite the fact that reading ability was slightly below average. From that moment on they fall deeply in love with each other but the time they spend together is short-lived as Rafe has been accepted to a program that sends American air pilots over to Britain to help fight off the German Blitzkrieg, one that he applied to himself. While he is overseas fighting in the war, Rafe asks his best friend Danny Walker to watch after Evelyn but when word came about that Rafe’s plane came down over the ocean – basically declaring him dead – things change quickly between Danny and Evelyn from friendship to a full-fledge infatuation. Then suddenly Rafe returns alive and just as a full confrontation between the two friend is about to erupt – catastrophe hits as the Japanese sneak attack Pearl Harbor and throw the United States head first into World War II. The story for 'Pearl Harbor,' as hard as it attempted to stick with historical accuracies, lacks severely and doesn’t feel as though the filmmakers were taking this seriously, even by Jerry Bruckheimer standards. Praise must be given to Bay and Bruckheimer for attempting to create a patriotically charged feature but next time they should view 'The Patriot' and see how it is done correctly.

Once again Bruckheimer chooses a great group of talented veteran actors and fresh newcomers to head this project but despite several promising, and even surprising, performances, the script is too bland and dull for any one person to really step above the rest. Ben Affleck’s performances have often been described as flat and though that can be disputed, that statement would be true for his role in this film. If there is one thing Affleck needs to improve on from this role is how to cry … He just sounds absolutely ridiculous when he does cry and any emotional quality that was to be retained in those scenes is slightly lost. Despite a fairly handicapped performance, Affleck does manage to work well with newcomers Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale, who both give decent performances with the weak material they are given. Though the script does tend to hinder many of the main performers in this feature, several actors do manage to transcend beyond that to give excellent performances. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s role as Dorie Miller is one of those performance and is based on an actual historical figure that fought bravely against the Japanese Kamikazes at Pearl Harbor. It would have been nice to note that his character went on to fight in World War II after the event and died in combat aboard a submarine but that could be taken as a bit of downer at this film, which was obviously something the filmmakers didn’t want. And the biggest surprise out of all the performances was the one given by Dan Aykroyd, who is best known for his comedic performances and often stays away from dramatic performances. But despite the lack of experience in this genre, Aykroyd gives a convincing performance that works well early on but for some reason the character ends up just dropping off around the mid-way point, which wasn’t too big of a problem, just a slight issue.

Overall, 'Pearl Harbor' gives the Walt Disney Company their 'Titanic' but the film ends up more like the ship rather then the movie in that its enormous extravagance results in its demise. Despite not receiving the same box office success its inspiration received, 'Pearl Harbor' finds similarity to 'Titanic' in that both features suffer from numerous clichés, a flat and unintentionally humorous script, and a time length that feels excruciating as the feature begins to wrap-up at the end. If one were to find even a few compliments for this film it would definitely to be its absolutely astonishing battle sequences that are presented in such vivid detail that it is almost heart-wrenching, though the filmmakers didn’t go to quite the level that Steven Spielberg did with 'Saving Private Ryan.' Another worthy aspect of the film was its musical score, which was created by brilliant composer Hans Zimmer who also wrote scores for 'The Lion King' and 'The Last Samurai.' But the breath-taking visuals and the brilliant musical score aren’t enough to save this feature from being nothing more then a poor attempt to cash in on the success of 'Titanic,' as well as the American military men and women who died at Pearl Harbor. Want true patriotism on the big screen? Rent 'The Patriot.'
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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