Pearl Harbor (2001)


Our Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewer: Dallas Shipp


The director has attempted yet another film like Titanic -- a movie that appeals to both genders with romance and adrenaline pumping action reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan -- without the gore. Danny (Josh Hartnett) and Rafe (Ben Affleck) have been best friends since their childhood and those long summer days inside an old rusted-out plane in the barn, envisioning heroism above the clouds. Many years have passed and the boys are now two of the most highly experienced fighters in the Air corps, known for their deviltry games of "chicken in the skies."


Due to their experience and insights into flying, the boys are sent to the peaceful military base in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor. There Rafe meets and romances the beautiful and intelligent nurse Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale), while preparing for overseas combat in the British air strikes against the invading Nazis. Leaving Evelyn with a promise that he will come back, Rafe ships off to England and a few months later news comes that his plane has been shot down. Danny attempts to console Evelyn and the two begin a love affair... only to have the proverbial prodigal son return. Now she must choose between two men who both have her heart... little knowing that in only a few days the Japanese will execute one of the most horrific and deadly strikes on American soil in the history of the world. Pearl Harbor will become a ticking time bomb with forty minutes of brilliantly-captured and digitalized air and water strikes that prove the long-awaited eye candy for the males that have been sitting in the audience, agonizing over the love story. Unfortunately, with this attack comes the tears. Though the film gives us many a shot of spurting blood, burned bodies, drowning soldiers, and military explosions, the director shies away from explicit gore. Still the violence is lengthy and unsettling, and the language unfortunate, with a dozen abuses of God's name coupled with profanity, many minor profanities, other abuses of deity (including "Jesus Christ!"), and a few anatomical references.


Even overlooking these glaring flaws, there is a moderate to heavy amount of sexual content. We only actually see one encounter under the fluttering canopy of a plane hanger, but the innuendo, dialogue, and visions of nurses and soldiers strolling nonchalantly in and out of hotels burn a vivid impression of a sexually carefree society. It was inevitable that this film would be compared to another major disaster epic and it likewise shares many of its l flaws. But while there is something horrifically enthralling about watching a luxury liner plunge to her death, there is a disconcerting element in watching thousands of soldiers being slaughtered in a massacre from the skies. Equally uncomfortable is the predictability of the plot, the vulgarity of the too-long war sequences, and the thought of watching for entertainment an event that killed thousands of people, including some who still lie entombed in a battleship beneath the waves.


For many older people, Pearl Harbor is a graphic and horrifying reminder of what they lived through. It would be like waiting fifty years and filming the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Historically the film is correct except for the Japanese, who are portrayed more lightly in this film (probably in conjuncture with not desiring to make waves in Japan) than they were in real life. Real-life survivors have some harrowing stories to tell about the heinous acts of the Japanese fighter pilots and their keen pleasure in what they were doing. It's a film that tries to win both sides and yet never quite achieves its desire. In attempting to create a romance they've soured the soup with violence; in attempting to make a war story, they've shot themselves in the foot by having to wait so long for action. Swim carefully in this Harbor.