Pearl Harbor (2001) starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Ewen Bremner, Alec Baldwin, Jon Voight, Cuba Gooding Jr. directed by Michael Bay Movie Review

Pearl Harbor (2001)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Ben Affleck as Capt. Rafe McCawley in Pearl Harbor (2001)

Bomb Bay Mixed

What can you say about Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor", maybe it is to war movies what "Twilight" is to vampire movies or maybe you could say it is Michael Bay doing for Pearl Harbor what James Cameron did for the Titanic. But I think the clearest thing to say about "Pearl Harbor" is that war has never looked so pretty, and that is in many ways the problem because Bay's epic war movie has some very good things but because it ends up too damn pretty it cheapens things.

So "Pearl Harbor" is in concept very similar to James Cameron's "Titanic" because firstly it is a visual extravaganza but secondly we have true story spliced with a fictional romantic storyline. Unfortunately the fictional romantic storyline dominates things as we follow childhood friends Danny and Rafe who find themselves at conflict when through a series of extraordinary events they both end up being in love with the same woman, Nurse Evelyn. Now it is a melodramatic storyline as war tears them apart in more ways than one and to be frank it is a bit cheesy because it ends up too far fetched.

Kate Beckinsale as Nurse Lt. Evelyn Johnson in Pearl Harbor (2001)

At the same time of this we also have the reconstruction of what happened at Pearl Harbor followed by America fighting back with an ingenious way to bomb Tokyo. And like the romantic storyline it is also cheesy as we have a lot of machismo and unbelievable action which yes you guessed it centres on Danny & Rafe being heroes.

That is a very simplified explanation of what happens in this 3 hour epic and a lot more goes on some of which is meant to be surprising. Now within these 3 hours there are some things which are really good such as the almost cavalier attitudes of Americans before the war thinking they were untouchable only then to realise that they weren't. It is something which you may not immediately pick up on because there is a lot of other stuff which ends up being a distraction but watching the attitudes change is good. What is also good is how Michael Bay tried to recreate the look and atmosphere of a 1940s war movie when it comes to the romantic storyline with big scenes such as one on a train station platform with billows of atmospheric smoke around a silhouetted romantic clinch. Even the whole jokey side of the early scenes feel influenced by older war movies which focused on romance rather than war.

But the trouble is that for all that is good about "Pearl Harbor" there is a lot which ends up distracting especially when it comes to the macho attitude and dialogue of the pilots and seamen. It borders on the corny when you see them acting tough, running around through explosions like madmen and spouting cheesy macho dialogue. And this is made worse by a very present soundtrack coupled with an incredible amount of slow motion to the point that I reckon if all the slow motion was played at normal speed then "Pearl Harbor" would last 2 hours rather than 3. It gets so bad at times that it starts to look like a music video with far too many heavily orchestrated scenes.

This leads me to the biggest problem because "Pearl Harbor" for a war movie looks far too pretty. So many scenes are too posed with sunlight drenching the background, dirty faces glistening as an actor looks longingly on and for what is essentially a scene which is meant to depict a war zone not enough dirt and smoke. It basically looks too clean, too created and when you add that to the slow motion, the soundtrack and the cheesy dialogue as well as far too many lingering close ups for romantic scenes it ends up cheesy.

Now in a way the casting is good, Ben Affleck has the all American hero look as does Josh Hartnett and they work well as friends. And Kate Beckinsale has the ideal look for a war time nurse, a damn attractive one at that with her bright red lipstick and dark hair. But again because it is full of cheesy dialogue and overly beautified looking scenes it all ends up bordering on the corny.

What this all boils down to is that I can understand what Michael Bay was trying for with "Pearl Harbor" and within this 3 hour romantic war movie there are some good things. But because everything about it is too pretty and over manufactured with far too much slow motion it ends up bordering on the cheesy especially with some incredibly cheesy dialogue.