Mary Poppins Returns
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
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All Critics (13)
| Top Critics (1)
| Fresh (7)
| Rotten (6)
| DVD (1)
There are few surprises here, yet the feature remains dependably engaging and charmingly acted, helping the production hurdle a few questionable artistic choices as it attempts to resurrect history over 30 years after the fact.
To make an uninvolving movie out of one of the most decisive battles of the Second World War may seem a dubious challenge, but there's no denying Universal their full credit in meeting it.
Rather dull, although certainly elaborate enough
Charlton Heston at his restrained yet forceful best.
has the decency to devote the majority of the film to the actual events, and not get bogged down in a fictitious, smarmy love affair.
If the movie drags a bit in the dramatics department, that's probably because the filmmakers were shooting for 'accuracy' over 'emotion'.
Blow by blow recital of the facts of the famous WWII Pacific sea battle delivered by faces you know and love makes for a cozy history lesson. The nutty love story thrown in for the ladies is not only distracting but irrelevant. All in all not a terrible waste.
"Woah, we're midway there, woah, livin' on a prayer"! Yeah, sorry about that anachronism which is so great that the song is somehow not even as old as this film. This film is so old that it features Charlton Heston... Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, Robert Wagner, Toshiro Mifune and, if you can actually find him in this sea of faces that are recognizable without moustaches, Tom Selleck. Wow, this is a heck of a cast, although, in all fairness, Fonda might just be here to make up for "Battle of the Bulge", because this is, of course, yet another one of those overlong, star-studded war films that's just about one big battle. That's only sort of worked up until now, but here, you do have to at least give this film credit for not being, like, three hours long for no good reason. Mind you, it's still 132 minutes long for no good reason, but that's still less than "midway" to the five-hour runtime that "The Longest Day" felt like it had. Well, I suppose this move has worked out, because, wow, this is surprisingly good, although, like its predecessors, it drags its feet at least enough to pick up some issues somewhere along the way.
The film stands to feel much more manufactured, but war pieces of this type thrive on realism, thus, when the film resorts to contrivances, perhaps even histrionics, no matter how moderate, it kind of annoys, thought that might simply be because its laziness is exacerbated by familiarity. Yes, I ramble on about how this war film which relies a lot on rambling on is, oddly enough, nothing new, but this is a rather formulaic both dialogue and action-driven military pseudo-epic, made all the more familiar by a few clichés to dialogue and characterization that, at this point, really help you in getting used to the natural shortcomings of this formula. There's a potential to this ambitious story concept, and this film explores it about as much as any of this type, but, as we've seen in "The Longest Day", "A Bridge Too Far", "Battle of the Bulge", and so on and so forth, the reliance on dramatically slim military babble, followed by exhaustingly extensive action threatens compellingness with a thinness that shouldn't go drawn out, yet typically is. Perhaps this film's being so much shorter than others of its type is instrumental in the final product's feeling tight enough to not stand as too great of a challenge to one's patience, but alas, at about two hours and a quarter, this film is still way too blasted long, meandering alone with repetitious dialogue and action set pieces, and even getting a tad overwrought with its plot layering. The narrative is also not as heavily branched as other of its type, yet when you get down to it, there's way too much going on here, and only so many of the plot branches are particularly distinguished, which isn't to say that you can't get enough of a sense of distinction between the story layers to feel when one is jarred out of the narrative, resulting in a focal unevenness that slowly, but surely devolves into convolution. It's hard to figure out what's going on here on occasions, and at times, it's admittedly harder to get invested in the first place, because no matter how much more realized this realist military battle epic is than its counterparts, a manufactured-feeling, formulaic and, of course, overblown structure threaten to way momentum down to an underwhelming point. Of course, in the end, the film really delivers more than I expected, in storytelling, that is, for it delivers about as much as I figured it would when it comes to technical value.
Well, beyond some extensive designs of military property that are just subtly varying enough to not run together too often, it is a long while before technical value is really played with, but once it is, it typically arrives in the form of some flashy traditional effects along crippling sets that supplement a sense of scope and believability to the action which will need all the help it can get if it's to be so ambitious. After a long, long build-up, the film turns to extensive action for a long while, in the style of other realist action war flicks, and it delivers to the patient with technical value and staging so prolific it's hard to not be at least a little immersed. Jash Smight's stylistic directorial tastes deserve much praise for selling the action as gripping heights in tension and entertainment value, but until those heights, it's not as though Smight commits the common sin of allowing this often talky war drama to get too dull, keeping scenes tight enough, or at least livened up enough - partly by a formulaic, but solid score by the great John Williams - to rarely lose some degree of intrigue, perhaps even intimacy with the characters who drive this ensemble piece. I'd say that the intimacy derives from Smight's working so well with the performers, but the filmmakers spare no expense in building a solid cast full of distinguished talents, all of whom do what they can and ultimately endear with charisma and chemistry so naturalist that you further feel thrusted into this environment. Really, many strengths are subtle, but that subtlety actually plays a huge part in making the final product so compelling, as comfortable inspiration in a lot of departments immerses, whether there be military, if not melodramatic chatter or booming action on display in an interesting idea. You'd figure that a narrative revolving around extensive military strategizing which ultimately comes down to an extended combat segment would be unique, but, as I've said time and again, it's been done time and again, by underwhelming mishandlings of overambition, and yet, it's still intriguing and promising, and actually pulled off here, largely because of the intelligent direction, and charismatic acting, and largely because of a script by Donald S. Sanford that, for all its bloatings, conventions and inconsistencies, actually finds that balance between tight, yet extensive military realism - colored up by some snappy, if typical dialogue - and genuine, if overblown characterization that has been missing out of potentially rewarding war films of this type. Once again, it all ultimately comes down to the subtle strengths that go a long way in making this a thoroughly interesting and grippingly tense war drama which ultimately rewards, albeit barely, yet nonetheless decisively.
In the end, through all of the contrived occasions and many conventions to a somewhat dramatically thin story concept whose interpretation is extremely overdrawn and convoluted in its focal inconsistencies, excellent technical proficiency and action, flashy direction, charismatic performances and a mostly narratively and thematically tight script render Jack Smight's "Midway" a surprisingly rewarding military battle epic that intrigues and entertains thoroughly.
3/5 - Good
I can't help but think that a certain amount of entertainment value was sacrificed for the sake of historical accuracy.
Like Flixster says, "Midway feels more like a history lesson than a drama". Still, it is history I am only vaguely aware of, so that is fine, but the movie seems long. There are a lot of famous faces in the movie. This film uses a lot of actual battle footage.
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