Guilty Pleasures: Pearl Harbor

By Shalimar Sahota

August 19, 2010

Ben Affleck steps out of the way and lets Josh Hartnett's career absorb the full blow.

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The so-called love story here is beyond repair. Many of the great ones put some effort in when it comes to how and why two people fall in love, except here there's very little explanation as to why Rafe and Danny are drawn to Evelyn. Bay’s defense was that he was aiming for a 1940s love story, rather than anything contemporary. Supposedly this is how romance went down in those days, with Bay revealing that he received letters of praise for his interpretation, too! It’s just difficult to care about the lead characters when there's little emotion on display. When Evelyn is given the bad news about Rafe, she doesn't say anything. She just hugs the closest person around and we're treated to sad music as a substitute.

The acting from the three main leads is nothing special, but even though they had little screen time, I found the supporting roles a damn sight tastier. Cuba Gooding Jr. as Dorie Miller screams for joy after shooting down a Japanese Zero. Alec Baldwin enjoys the bullshit as Colonel Jimmie Doolittle, and Jon Voight seems to have President Roosevelt nailed. Ewen Bremner provides a memorable turn as the stuttering pilot Red Winkle, as does Tom Sizemore as plane mechanic Earl Sistern, though one could argue that he’s pretty much playing himself here.


It's a shame that one has to go through a tedious first half. Once the Japanese bombing commences, it's almost as if watching an entirely different film. The camera angles and shaky, kinetic movement during the battle sequences add a touch of realism to the action. This Director’s Cut is also incredibly graphic in places, with extra moments of blood, limbs and intestines. Then there's that impressive shot where the camera circles a bomb dropped down from a Japanese Zero upon a battleship. When the first trailer was launched back in June 2000, this was the obvious money shot that got me, and many others, excited. The resulting explosion is devastating. The momentum suddenly picks up once Rafe and Danny get to their planes to fight back. Quite simply, the battle and bombing sequences are stunning. Many explosions were shot for real with some background elements computer generated, and on the whole it’s blended together so well that it’s difficult to tell what’s CGI here and what isn’t. The sound mix is also fantastically uproarious with planes, gunfire and explosions all over the place.

Since a lot of people use movies and TV programs as their main source of information about history, youngsters especially may take what they see to be fact. Not every film about a historical event is going to be 100% spot on, but Pearl Harbor has suffered heavy criticism due to just how inaccurate it is, be it about what certain characters did, the color of planes, the weapons used and even radio transmissions. There are far too many to list, though that’s not to say everything is false. One goof that gets me includes Rafe being unable to read (supposedly dyslexic), but then he is later seen writing a letter.

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