Reviewed by: Ken James
|Featuring||Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alec Baldwin|
“Pearl Harbor” makes big news. It did then, and it does now. Since I’m no history buff, my take on Bay and Bruckheimer’s expensive blockbuster will remain strictly with the film (despite the slight revisionist history I’ve heard critics cry out about). And so, we begin a long, and I do mean long, tale…
Let’s go back to post-WWI. The enemy of choice for young boys is the Germans. Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) grow up as best buds in the fields of Tennessee. Fast forward to 1940-41 and we find them together in the U.S. Army undergoing fighter pilot training. Naturally, a good pilot has to get a physical. What good would the Army be without nurses? One of them is Lt. Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckensale), a witty and pretty brunette that finds herself smitten with Lt. McCawley who himself has fallen head over heals for her. They have a whirlwind romance of a month plus before he volunteers for an assignment with the Royal Air Force in England, the forefront of the war that the Americans have not yet committed to. He leaves and, after being shot down, is believed dead. She hangs on for a while, heartbroken at the loss of her love, then decides to move on where best-friend Danny steps in. Unexpectedly they are drawn to each other. For them, things happen quickly (as they often do in war) and “between the sheets” of the hanging parachutes the two consummate their relationship. And this is just the first hour.
At this point I found myself liking Rafe a lot better. As a mainly moral guy he chose to not spend his last night in America entangled in the bare arms of his love. He took the higher moral ground, and I found myself thinking how often does that happen in today’s cinema? But Danny is a likable guy too, a bit quiet and withdrawn, and so when the three find themselves in the midst of a love triangle it really does kinda pull at your heartstrings. It may have a bit more if the characters had a bit more chemistry.
Up to this point things are building up to the attack we all know is coming. It is made clear how easily America is blindsided by thinking they are impenetrable. While relationships are building among the main and sub characters, the Japanese are setting in motion plans for their future. By the time the bombing actually happens, we’re all more then ready for it. After all, isn’t that what we’ve all seen on the trailers? And yes, this scene is worth it all. Amazing special effects and plenty of time spent on this really make it work. And oh, the tragedy that war brings. Up close and personal we see hundreds of charred and shattered bodies, some in the water and others on land. Evelyn and the other nurses work to the point of exhaustion bravely trying to help somehow with the massive influx of wounded. Once the attack is over and we survey the damage, the sadness is gripping. War really is hell.
Christians sensitive to language should note that there is plenty of language in this PG-13 film: over a dozen instances of God’s name in vain as well as other crude comments and profanities. There is not much nudity, but some when a male G.I. is rubbing his buttock after an injection. There is also a quick side-shot of a soldier getting treated for a bad case of sunburn. The “sensual” (read sex) scene doesn’t show much nudity, but there is movement and some sounds that leave little to the imagination. At least this was no “Titanic” scene.
Note to Alec Baldwin: you are the weakest link. I wish you weren’t chosen for the part of Doolittle, but you were and it was a poor choice. Perhaps retirement should be in order. Sappy lines and unconvincing acting don’t fit well with the rest of this quality pic.
Being reminded of the true story behind “Pearl Harbor” I can’t help but think about the spiritual parallels. While the majority of people live their lives in relative peace, thinking everything is just fine, how many of us will be blindsided when death comes? And yes, I’m talking to churchgoers too. What have you done to ensure you are ready when the end comes? There’s a statistic that says death is 100% fatal. Sooner or later it’ll happen. I hope you have put your trust in Jesus Christ. he’s the only way to a bright eternity. Trusting in your own good works will get you nowhere. The U.S.S. Arizona and other members of the fleet at Pearl Harbor weren’t ready, and they sadly found that out too late. The rest is history.