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PEARL HARBOR

SYNOPSIS:
Rafe (Ben Affleck) and Danny (Josh Hartnett) have been best of friends – and would-be pilots - since childhood. They join the US Army Air Corps so they can fly, and they hunger for action, but end up in the backwater of Hawaii – Pearl Harbour, where the US Pacific fleet is gathered at rest. When Rafe volunteers for England’s crack Eagle Squadron to fight the Nazis in the air, he has to leave behind his new girl, Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) as well as his friend Danny. On one daring mission, Rafe is shot down and is believed killed. After months of waiting, Evelyn finally accepts his death and starts her life over, gradually falling in love with Danny – much to both their surprise and reluctance. Meanwhile, the Japanese plan for a surprise attack on America’s fleet at Pearl Harbour is put into all too successful effect, killing thousands and destroying the fleet. The aftermath of the personal and international developments are profound.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
“The good things about this film include John Voight, almost unrecognisable as President Roosevelt, a handsome score by Hans Zimmer, a handful of ‘money shots’ and excellent sound and sound editing. The major attack sequence is complex and prolonged, and while the film doesn’t quite manage the build up, it is a payoff that - while not up to Saving Private Ryan’s visceral opening sequence - is still worth the ticket price if that’s what you are going for. But in an effort to put the historic and infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour during the war within an accessible framework for mass audiences today and give it personal context, the film tells an elongated story of a love triangle involving two American solders and a girl. This is a faithful old device for storytelling, especially useful when the story is not about the backdrop. Here, the story is about the backdrop, and we know that. Read the title. The resultant effect – propounded by production design that is clinical in its correctness - is to distance us from both the romance and the war story. Another reason for this is the sense of artificiality that the enormous filmmaking effort conveys. The cliches and the schmaltz that infects the screenplay (and some of the direction) are half to be expected from the product of an industry that is a schizophrenic mix of risk taking and playing it safe. Pearl Harbour is a disappointing film because it simply doesn’t live up to the enormity of its subject matter; it doesn’t engage us but batters us into submission.”

Review by Louise Keller:
"Sublime production design, spectacular aerial battle scenes and a poignant love triangle swirl together to create the Pearl Harbor epic, whose extraordinary climactic bombing re-enactment is its undisputed highlight. Unlike Saving Private Ryan and other recent war movies which rely on graphic realism and biting harshness, Pearl Harbor offers a touch of old fashioned Hollywood, both in its often surreal design and in its gentle love story. In fact, there are more similarities with Titanic than there are with Saving Private Ryan. But its characters never affect us as they could (or should), and while the film is a dazzling extravaganza with thrilling action scenes, we are not swept away. Perhaps it is too carefully constructed – with its dimple-chinned, square jawed hero, sugar-won't melt in her mouth heroine and loyal boy-next-door who loves them both. The love story doesn't touch the heart, nor is there chemistry or sizzle; all the sizzle takes place on the battlefields. Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale look great together, but their love story feels as though it germinated on paper, not in the flesh. This is much to do with the film's stylised approach; it is far more satisfying cinematically than emotionally. Beautifully shot with a glorious musical soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, Pearl Harbor is a slick, sugar-coated fiction set on a historic background. The cast works well; Josh Harnett is appealing (his personality grows with the film), while Alex Baldwin, Cuba Gooding Jnr and a striking Jon Voight, add substance. I'm a romantic and my favourite moments are high above the clouds when the planes speed in a world of their own. The sun sets in a glow of cadmium orange, while fluffy white, pink and grey clouds are the symbols of our dreams. Sharp editing and carefully built anticipation help us savour the moment we have all been waiting for - and the fantastic effects and stunts do not disappoint. The actual bombing scene almost looks like a colourful fireworks display; its consequences are only realised and revealed in due course. Yes, it's long, and the cynics will ask if the spectacle warrants the three hours running time. While it may not deliver totally in the final analysis, Pearl Harbor is spectacular, a modern-day war drama, whose timbres certainly tantalise."

Review by Richard Kuipers:
"Once upon a time there were two friends who became pilots and fell in love with the same girl. Then they had a fight. After that a nasty country called Japan decided to bomb Pearl Harbor and the friends decided to help each other again". That deliberately dumb introduction should prepare you for the cretinous tone of this three hour cinematic atrocity. Little Golden Books are more sophisticated than this mind-numbing interpretation of events surrounding the most calamitous single day in American military history. Top it off with the most banal love triangle imaginable and you have a perfectly wretched piece of celluloid garbage that will no doubt become one of the highest grossing films of all time. To list its shortcomings would take days but here's the top of my list. Why is there no reason other than "our oil supply has been blocked" for the Japanese attack? Didn't Hawaii have a significant population of Japanese descent at the time - where were they? How come everyone in Hawaii was up and dressed when the raid commenced at the crack of dawn on a Sunday? Why are the Japanese presented as almost being sorry for their actions - wasn't this one of their greatest military moments? Admiral Yamamoto (Mako), the only Japanese character given even a semblance of humanity, gravely intones lines like "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant". He must have known the outcome of the war. Call it 20-20 hindsight. For an almost illiterate Tennessee farm boy Rafe sure has a way with words - "I'm not anxious to die sir, I'm anxious to matter". Could the make up department have found a worse prosthetic chin for Jon Voight to wear? I get angry when I hear of special memorial services and screenings being organised to coincide with publicity campaigns of travesties such as this. Especially ones that spend 40 minutes wallowing in special effects destruction without having the guts to show the carnage close-up. All in the name of teenager-friendly ratings certificates of course. In an age where the film becomes the official history for audiences who no longer read, Pearl Harbor is a tragedy indeed.”



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 2

See our INTERVIEW with Ben Affleck

See our INTERVIEW with Michael Bay

PEARL HARBOR (M)
(US)

CAST: Ben Affleck, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alec Baldwin, Jon Voight, Josh Hartnett, Dan Aykroyd

DIRECTOR: Michael Bay

PRODUCER: Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Janet Lewin

SCRIPT: Randall Wallace

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Schwartzman

EDITOR: Chris Lebenzon

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nigel Phelps

RUNNING TIME: 180 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2001<>

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE

VIDEO RELEASE: December 19, 2001 (rental); April 24, 2002 (sell-thru)

UPCOMING EVENT
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney.

Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.







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