Roland Emmerich's Second World War pic Midway 'crudely effective'

Brave young men take to the skies in Roland Emmerich's Second World War action drama Midway

Aaron Eckhart stars as Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Doolittle in Midway
Damon Smith

AN EXTRA-terrestrial invasion, the rampage of a 350ft-tall lizard, a superstorm sparked by global warming, cataclysmic events foretold by the Mayans, a terrorist attack on Washington DC and an extra extra-terrestrial invasion.

German director Roland Emmerich has spared no visual effects expense in wreaking havoc on our tiny planet with muscular blockbusters including Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, White House Down and Independence Day: Resurgence.

The testosterone continues to pump, with barely a two-dimensional female protagonist in sight, in an all-guns-blazing dramatisation of six months of military brinkmanship between America and Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7 1941.

Screenwriter Wes Tooke distils history into bombastic action sequences, bolted together with clumsy dialogue and perfunctory character development.

The storytelling is fitful and jagged, suggesting editor Adam Wolfe cleaved this thunderous 138-minute tour from a longer and more coherent cut.

London-born actor Ed Skrein reports for duty as real-life war hero Dick Best, sporting a broad American accent that roams the east coast as he inspires men under his command to embody the unshakeable resolve of those who fight under a fluttering Stars and Stripes.

Emmerich stages battles with customary abandon and a blitzkrieg of digital trickery, repeating the same manoeuvre – American bombers pulling out of a steep dive at the last second to deliver their deadly payload to a Japanese aircraft carrier – as a resolution to each set piece.

The devastation begins at Pearl Harbour naval base.

"We have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with terrible resolve," despairs Tamon Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano), naval attache to Washington, as he listens to a radio news report about the offensive.

Hundreds of American servicemen die on Hawaii, including Lieutenant Roy Pearce (Alexander Ludwig), whose best friend, ace dive bomber pilot Lieutenant Dick Best (Skrein), vows revenge.

America formally enters the Second World War and Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) spearheads a daring raid on the Japanese mainland.

Consequently, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa), commander-in-chief of the Japanese navy, escalates plans to attack Midway Island.

Intelligence expert Edwin T Layton (Patrick Wilson) and code-breakers led by Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown) intercept enemy communications and advise Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) to prepare for a brutal skirmish in the Pacific.

Midway salutes real-life American and Japanese heroes in a rudimentary fashion, lingering on the pyrotechnic-laden theatrics of war rather than the fragile human hearts broken by each dizzying assault.

Emmerich pummels our eyes and eardrums into wearied submission as he turns up the heat on homoeroticism between the male cast while Mandy Moore simpers in the background as Dick's wife Ann.

A sombre coda bullet-points accolades presented to each man for courage under fire.

Emmerich's crudely effective picture gets the job done but merits no such fulsome accolades.

Rating: 6/10

MIDWAY (12A, 138 mins) War/Action/Thriller/Romance. Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Tadanobu Asano, Etsushi Toyokawa, Aaron Eckhart, Mandy Moore, Brennan Brown, Alexander Ludwig. Director: Roland Emmerich.

Released: November 8

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