Review of Pearl Harbor

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Pearl Harbor follows the story of two best friends, Rafe and Danny, and their love lives as they go off to join the war. Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Alec Baldwin.
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Movie Review: "Pearl Harbor"

-- Rating: PG-13 (sustained intense war sequences, images of wounded, brief sensuality, and some language)
Length: 183 minutes
Release Date: May 25, 2001
Directed By: Michael Bay
Genre: Action, Drama, and Romance

"Pearl Harbor" is a big-budget action movie that is willing to play a little loose with history for the sake of a great story. The events that occurred at Pearl Harbor are an important part of U.S. history, and involve the Japanese attacking the American U.S. Navy military base in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. It was a primary reason why the United States entered World War II.

Director Michael Bay takes that fateful day and introduces a turbulent love story between Rafe McCawley (played by Oscar-winner Ben Affleck), Nurse Evelyn Johnson (played by "Underworld" star Kate Beckinsale), and Danny Walker (played by "Sin City's" Josh Hartnett). Rafe and Evelyn are in love, but when Rafe is shot down during a flying mission and presumed dead, she falls in love with Rafe's best friend Danny.

Rafe comes back on Dec. 6 and finds out about the two new lovebirds. Rafe and Danny fight, but their disagreement is interrupted the next morning by the Japanese attack. Evelyn tends to the injured and dying while Rafe and Danny get in their planes and take on the Japanese fighters. When they finally land and find Evelyn, she uses their blood for transfusions, which helps to save several soldiers.

The film continues to follow Rafe, Evelyn, and Danny after the attack and includes the story of the top secret attack on Japan ordered by President Roosevelt (played by Jon Voight).

Ben Affleck does an amazing job as Rafe. His depiction of hurt and remorse when he finds his best friend and girlfriend together tugs at your heart strings. You can't help but feel sorry for him as well as Evelyn and Danny because none of them meant for this to happen. After the attack and the action that follows, Affleck is his usual commanding self and easily steals the show from Hartnett.

Affleck is a force of nature on film, so the younger actor Hartnett had little chance of upstaging him. That doesn't mean we can discount Hartnett and his character. Hartnett gives Danny a vulnerability throughout the movie that helps humanize him during the conflict. Many times, once the action starts, actors go on autopilot and let the action rule the movie, but Hartnett was able to transcend that and maintain an emotional presence.

Beckinsale's portrayal of Evelyn is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Viewers feel sorry for her because she fell in love with two men and now has to make a decision about who to be with. Should she stay with the man she loved first or continue on with her current relationship? A plot twist helps her make that decision, but you can practically feel the pain and anguish she's going through.

Once the bombing starts, Evelyn takes charge and you see exactly how strong she truly is. She sets up triage for the soldiers, even going so far as developing a system to determine who should be helped and who should be left to die.

While this is truly an ensemble cast, one stands out among the various supporting characters. Petty Officer Doris Miller (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is an African American man serving in the U.S. Navy who was not allowed to carry a weapon due to the racial perspectives of that time. When the attack happens, Miller steps up and begins firing a large machine gun, downing several planes. Emotions run high when he later receives a medal for his actions.

While the primary story focuses on Rafe, Evelyn, and Danny, Bay didn't shirk from examining some of the more peripheral characters as well. You can sense the internal conflict of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (played by veteran actor Mako) as he gives the order to attack. He followed orders, knowing that it will bring the Americans into the war.

As with any other Michael Bay film, "Pearl Harbor" has plenty of action and special effects to keep people enthralled. Bay did an amazing job capturing the look and feel of Pearl Harbor before, during, and after the attack. The explosions and effects in the air were very realistic and captured the horrors of the attack.

Bay also used unique camera work and effects to shield the audience from the gore that comes with such an attacks and was able to earn a PG-13 rating.

"Pearl Harbor" has enough action to satisfy the men in the audience and enough romance to keep the ladies tuned in. It's historical accuracy may be a little shady at times, but many are willing to overlook that for the sake of a good dramatic storyline. This was a blockbuster movie when it came out and contains the action, story, and cast befitting such a success.

Rated: 3 out of 5 stars