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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Midway movie review: Nick Jonas, Ed Skrein’s film is shameless ode to white man’s heroism, CGI mayhem

Midway movie review: Nick Jonas stars in two very tiny scenes in Roland Emmerich’s latest CGI mayhem on the big screen. A shallow film that cashes in on war, only to flex muscles in the visual effects department.

hollywood Updated: Nov 09, 2019 22:45 IST
Soumya Srivastava
Soumya Srivastava
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Midway movie review: Nick Jonas makes a hero’s entry for a two-minute appearance in the film.
Midway movie review: Nick Jonas makes a hero’s entry for a two-minute appearance in the film.(AP)

Roland Emmerich
Cast: Ed Skrein, Nick Jonas, Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Mandy Moore and others

Hollywood’s hard-on for hollow heroism is far from dead. After getting Will Smith to drag aliens through deserts and making giant lizards attack New York, director Roland Emmerich is back to reclaim his title for most mindless CGI mayhem ever projected on the big screen with his latest, Midway.

The film is supposed to be an ‘accurate retelling’ of events of the World War II, specifically the Japanese Imperial forces’ attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and US’ retaliatory attack on them at Midway Islands six months later. Accurate it may be (still quite dubious on that part) but effective it is not.

Watch the trailer for Midway:


With Midway, Emmerich has rounded up the biggest names of Hollywood including Woody Harrelson, Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid, Luke Evans and Aaron Eckhart -- all unmistakably brave and white officers in the US navy and air force. Ed Skrien plays the over-confident cowboy lead who is brave to the point of stupid. Adding more moustaches to the mix is national jiju and perhaps the reason some of you are reading this review in the first place, Nick Jonas. Sorry to break it to you but he gets merely a couple of minutes in this almost 2.5 hour-long film, and most of them are spent screaming into the camera or smoking a cocky cigarette.

Together, these half a dozen men (and a few more) avenge their nation and their fallen friends by launching a testosterone-soaked attack on the enemy. There is not a single person of colour in sight on the ‘good side’ and the Japanese either growl like rabid men lusting for blood or brood in their sinister dark caves while across the ocean, the American officials are all soaked in sunlight and goodness. Reparations arrive but too late and too little.

Woody Harrelson in a scene from Midway.
Woody Harrelson in a scene from Midway. ( AP )

An entire village of quarter million Chinese people is wiped out for helping American soldiers escape, but their story is reduced to a footnote in the epilogue. The only scene of any emotional worth, of a sinking Japanese ship and its commander willing to go down with it, arrives in the nether end of the whole spectacle. But to give it all an impression of an unbiased, non-polarised retelling of the episode, the film is called a tribute to the soldiers on both the sides. It is like holding a falling wall with duct tape.

But it’s not like we have not loved or enjoyed one-sided war films before. We have all grown up snorting that sweet drug of watching guns firing, torpedoes dropping, jet engines roaring, men putting their lives in line for friends, waiting for a letter from home, shaking in fear while trapped on an abandoned ship, saving privates or horses trapped in mud. These are the moments that films made on war should ideally strive for.

This image released by Lionsgate shows Ed Skrein, left, and Mandy Moore in a scene from Midway.
This image released by Lionsgate shows Ed Skrein, left, and Mandy Moore in a scene from Midway. ( AP )

Sadly, Midway and all her cousin war films have been all about cashing in on the mayhem and the long-awaited opportunity to flex their CGI muscles. It’s not like Emmerich had thrown the idea of a more human war film out of the window. He did try to pepper his film with moments that he must have thought would mask the mechanical, unfeeling giant he had built. Young boys scared for their lives are given speeches about their duty to the nation and their higher purpose; men’s sacrifices in battlefield are laid out against a background score fit for a god’s death. But before this moment, no effort was made to humanise these characters. They are too heroic, as if manufactured in a factory and not really people who have lived lives of their own that are worth saving, worth more than being just another casualty of war.

Ed Skrein and Luke Kleintank in a scene from Midway.
Ed Skrein and Luke Kleintank in a scene from Midway. ( AP )

All said and done, airplanes still make your seats shake and guns still make your heart thump but at the end of 2.5 hours, Midway also gives you a headache that you just cannot get rid of.

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