At times, “Pearl Harbor” is a gripping, stirring, action-filled motion picture. Unfortunately, the rest is filled with improbable plot twists and laden with melodrama.
Lost somewhere in between the explosions and mega stars is the script, the weaknesses of which are evident early on. In a scene that is far too similar to one in “Top Gun,” life-long buddies played by Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett are reprimanded for showing off their aerial skills and taking unnecessary risks during training flights. Alec Baldwin is unconvincing as their former-legend Navy supervisor. His attempts at authoritativeness don’t blend well with his corny dialogue, although one might be hard pressed to find an actor in Hollywood today who could pull off that role given its poor writing.
Ben Affleck suffers a similar fate as a hotshot who is a star among the pilots and a particular hit with one of the nurses. Most of his scenes are sappy and lack any real depth. While his initial scenes opposite his love interest, played by Kate Beckinsdale, are somewhat enjoyable, others later on are nearly laughable. Beckinsdale’s classic features help her look the part, but she too is saddled with melodrama that she cannot overcome.
Josh Hartnett is satisfactory as Danny, Affleck’s best friend who will eventually fall for the same girl as his friend. He plays the simple man well, but scenes between him and Affleck just prior to the bombing are among the worst in the film.
Dan Akyroyd is one of the few bright spots as a naval intelligence expert. His portrayal is the most real of any in the movie and his character provides a fascinating peek into the minds of Navy officials during this volatile time in history.
The best part of the more than 3-hour movie is when the bombing actually takes place. Moviegoers see the developments of the days and weeks prior to the bombing from both the American and Japanese viewpoints. This is well done as the sense of apprehension is palatable.Camera shots that follow the trajectory of the bombs are first rate.However, contrived events that are a little over the top serve to detract from the raw emotion of the battle scenes.
All in all, it was the material not related to the actual bombing that sunk this film. While a love story can be an important part of a movie such as this, as it was in “Titanic,” the one here is mediocre at best. Had the relationship between Hartnett and Affleck been explored a little deeper it might have worked, but instead it fails rather miserably. Pearl Harbor was an important event in our nation’s history that will not be forgotten. The movie on the other hand, won’t even leave a mark on the radar of film history.