Midway – UHD Review

We need to throw a punch, so they know what it feels like to be hit. 3.5 Stars

In response to the catastrophic failure of military intelligence that led to the decimation of a good portion of the US Navy’s fleet during the attack on Pearl Harbor, American leadership began preparations for a counter attack. One that would convince Americans that this was a fight we could win and one that would cripple the Japanese naval capabilities. Electronic Intelligence intercepts translated by codebreakers began to indicate that a massive second attack would occur somewhere in the Pacific, and became convinced it would center on the island of Midway. By stealthily moving forces to intercept the Japanese fleet, America turned the tide of World War II. They decisively wrecked the Japanese capabilities at Midway, including sinking their flagship destroyer and sole aircraft carrier.

2019’s Midway presents a historically accurate (to a degree, anyway) depiction of the events leading up to, through and after the battle of Midway, starting with the terrifying destruction of the ships anchored at Pearl Harbor. It does so by winnowing down to a half dozen key figures in the fight, from pilots in the air all the way up to the Admirals planning the fight. Key though is the inclusion of accurate representation of Japanese leadership and strategy as well. Midway intertwines the following plot lines, showing the very human essence of these figures, with complex emotions, baggage, and fears:

Dick Best (Ed Skrein) is a hotshot divebomber pilot that ultimately is recognized as leading two separate attacks on Japan’s aircraft carriers, the Akagi and the Hiryu. Best is our insight into the actual air fights, and how he deals with becoming a leader to his men. His wife, Ann Best (Mandy Moore) provides a sounding board and fierce advocate for him, even promoting his capabilities to his superiors when they doubt men will follow him.

Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) is the Intelligence officer who warned US commanders that an attack was coming on Pearl Harbor, and they ignored him due to insufficient backup to his predictions. After Pearl Harbor he is given more respect and resources, and along with a peculiar but brilliant codebreaker Rochefort (Brennan Brown) they are able to piece together the details of the Japanese plan to attack Midway, allowing the US to sabotage the plan.

Chester W. Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) and William ‘Bull’ Halsey (Dennis Quaid) are the Admirals planning out the American response to Pearl Harbor. Despite depleted forces, Nimitz is able to get the crippled carrier Yorktown back in the fight and rally enough other forces to win against the Japanese.

Wade McClusky (Luke Evans) is a naval aviator whose spotting of a lone Japanese battleship travelling at full speed allowed the US to find and destroy the fleet it was heading towards.

Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) led a group of US Army aircraft into Tokyo on a daring bombing run. This was the first time that any enemy had ever made it into the Emperor of Japan’s city. While the damage was only moderate, the morale boost was immense for both the military and American public alike. Doolitle’s forces crashed into Japanese occupied China but mostly survived and made it out

When Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas) sees a damaged Japanese plane about to crash into his ship, he jumped into a nearby bomber and opened fire, knocking it out of the sky as it crashed down just skimming the ship. Gaido was promoted by Halsey who watched it happen. Gaido was later shot down, taken prisoner and executed by drowning.

Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa) Is the Japanese Admiral who has to juggle the Emperor’s demands, competition with the Japanese Army and the US forces who want his fleet sunk.

Per History.com:
“On June 6, Yamamoto ordered his ships to retreat, ending the Battle of Midway. In all, Japan had lost as many as 3,000 men (including more than 200 of their most experienced pilots), nearly 300 aircraft, one heavy cruiser and four aircraft carriers in the battle, while the Americans lost the Yorktown and Hammann, along with around 145 aircraft and approximately 360 servicemen.

As a result of the U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway, Japan abandoned its plan to expand its reach in the Pacific, and would remain on the defensive for the remainder of World War II. The battle injected U.S. forces with confidence and drained Japanese morale, turning the tide of war in the Pacific strongly in favor of the Allies.”

Midway (2019)
Released: 08 Nov 2019
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 138 min
Director: Roland Emmerich
Genre: Action, Drama, History, War
Cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans
Writer(s): Wes Tooke
Plot: The story of the Battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the sailors who fought it.
IMDB rating: 6.9
MetaScore: 47

Disc Information
Studio: Lionsgate
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, Spanish 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 138 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 3/18/20/2020
MSRP: $42.99

The Production: 3.5/5

Midway was a labor of love for famed director Roland Emmerich. While he was able to finance its $100 million price tag through using Asian investors, it’s not clear if the film has made a profit globally. It has also earned a sub 50% rating with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

All of this is a damn shame.

Midway should be celebrated as one of America’s greatest triumphs, and yet today we learn next to nothing about it in school. Midway the film does a terrific job honoring those who fought these battles, and is quite respectful of depicting the enemy as complex humans with competing goals and emotions.

Fundamentally the marketing for the film over hyped the action and what is up on screen is a long and detailed history lesson, with middling payoff. The actors are universally competent to great (Quaid’s Halsey is a standout for sure!), but something just doesn’t catapult this film into greatness.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Per IMDB Midway was shot on Panavision Millennium DXL2 in 8K with Panavision H-Series Lenses and mixed down to a 2K DI with Dolby Vision. It’s obviously been upressed to 4K for this disk. I watched it in HDR10 but the amount of HDR was limited, with a few good flashes in explosion sequences. Emmerrich wanted about $25+ million more for this film than what he was budgeted, and while the effects are passable, it’s clear they could have been way more detailed if they had not been done at 2k and uprezzed. While the CGI is a bit underwhelming the rest of the film is highly detailed and well lit. All of the practical scenes are top notch. Heck even the extras are presented in 4K and may be native shot 4K to boot. Is that a first for Lionsgate?

Audio: 4/5

Audio is terrific here. Big sound stage for the fight scenes, with good wraparound audio as bullets and aircraft whiz through the air. A decent amount of height data where it calls for it (mostly dive bombing scenes). I honestly don’t remember much of the soundtrack tho, which is odd, Emmerich’s other movies usually go above and beyond there. I’m going to have to pull that one up again on Apple Music for another listen. Good bass action where required too, especially in the Pearl Harbor opening sequence.

Special Features: 5/5

Feature length Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich (I don’t listen to commentary tracks for reviews as a general rule)

Features:
Getting it Right: The Making of Midway (14:16) – Behind the scenes, well worth your time
The Men of Midway (12:24) – The actors talk about the roles they play and their historic influence
Roland Emmerich: Man on a Mission (4:57) – Emmerich and the screenwriter on what they went through to get this made
Turning Point: The Legacy of Midway (15:00) – Discussion on the historic impact of Midway
Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code (6:14) – Behind the scenes of what the Codebreakers did
We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember (9:29) – Two amazing vets talk about their historic friendship

Honestly this is one of the best batches of extras I’ve seen from Lionsgate in a while. They reported as showing in 4k on my system, I could not tell if that was native or upscaled tho.

Overall: 3.5/5

Overall I consider Midway a near miss. As a retelling of a lost piece of American history it definitely informed me of something I am sad to say I was sadly ignorant of, up until now. I’m definitely going to read up on it, including taking a crack at Layton’s memoir and watching some of John Ford’s videos actually shot on location at Midway during the battle. “Keep shooting” indeed.

As a vehicle for entertainment tho, it somehow manages to be a little flat despite the great performances. I can’t put my finger on it, but maybe it was just a smidge too long with too many jumps between the players.

Regardless, this should be a film every US student has to see at least once. Those who forget the past are damned to repeat it!

B07ZWBPM9Y

Published by

Sam Posten

editor,member

22 Comments

  1. Thank you for your review. I was dubious about the movie before it's opening, but I think it's better than the film score you gave it. It's more like a 2.0-2.5 film score for me. I'll probably buy the 4K digital and not the disc though as I need to be careful with disc storage space.

  2. Sam, thank you for an excellent review of a very good movie. You nailed it. The movie was good but not quite as good as one would have hoped for. But this is probably as good as we’re going to get. I doubt that there will ever be another movie made about this incredibly important battle (unless, of course I hit the lottery).

    And now the history geek has to have a few words. The reason the loss of those four carriers was so important was that Japan did not have the industrial capacity to replace them. If memory serves me they had a total of nine before the battle. So nearly half their carrier force was lost in this one battle. And the Pacific War at sea was going going to be a carrier fight.

    Recommended Books: Miracle At Midway by Gordon Prange The Battle Of Midway by Craig Symonds

    Hope this is worthwhile and thanks for the review. This disc goes in my collection, flaws and all.

  3. A bit of historical trivia about USS Yorktown, the American aircraft carrier that was lost during the Battle of Midway.

    In 1940 the Navy had begun constructing a new class of “fast carriers,” the first of which was USS Essex. At the time of the Battle of Midway construction was underway on a new Essex-class carrier in Newport News, Virginia. This carrier was supposed to be named USS Bon Homme Richard, the name of the flagship of John Paul Jones during the American Revolution. After USS Yorktown was sunk at Midway, the Navy decided to change the name of the new carrier to USS Yorktown, and it was given the hull number CV-10. The new Yorktown saw action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and was a recovery ship for the Apollo 8 mission. It also can be seen in the film Tora! Tora! Tora! The ship is now a museum near Charleston, South Carolina.

    The Navy didn’t forget about the name Bon Homme Richard. USS Bon Homme Richard CV-31 was commissioned in 1944 and also saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It also happens to have been the aircraft carrier that I served aboard in 1969 and 1970.

    I’ve been on the fence about getting the film because of its mediocre reviews, but now I think that I will buy it.

  4. Richard Gallagher

    A bit of historical trivia about USS Yorktown, one of the two American aircraft carriers that were lost during the Battle of Midway.

    In 1940 the Navy had begun constructing a new class of "fast carriers," the first of which was USS Essex. At the time of the Battle of Midway construction was underway on a new Essex-class carrier in Newport News, Virginia. This carrier was supposed to be named USS Bon Homme Richard, the name of the flagship of John Paul Jones during the American Revolution. After USS Yorktown was sunk at Midway, the Navy decided to change the name of the new carrier to USS Yorktown, and it was given the hull number CV-10. The new Yorktown saw action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and was a recovery ship for the Apollo 8 mission. It also can be seen in the film Tora! Tora! Tora! The ship is now a museum near Charleston, South Carolina.

    The Navy didn't forget about the name Bon Homme Richard. USS Bon Homme Richard CV-31 was commissioned in 1944 and also saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It also happens to have been the aircraft carrier that I served aboard in 1969 and 1970.

    I've been on the fence about getting the film because of its mediocre reviews, but now I think that I will buy it.

    We lost only one carrier during the Battle of Midway.

  5. On the fence about this one. I really love the 1976 version; although I believe I enjoy the film more than a subjective view of the merits of the film would indicate. I think it is the large cast plus the combat footage that makes it hold up so well for me. Curious how this version compares to the 1976 version.

    As per the Battle of Midway wikipedia page, the US lost the carrier Yorktown and the destroyer Hammann.

    – Walter.

  6. PreOrdred Amazon last month and should be dispatched within a week or so now.

    Got the 1976 Midway so I know the story. I want see how those CGI airplanes and battleships look with sound editing mixing, by oscar nominated Greg P. Russell, who did the mix on Pearl Harbor 2001.

    Midway 1976 only has a odd like mono on the region 2 DVD I think an out of phase that makes it sound like stereo but leaks effects dialogue into the surrounds.

    It under did at box office with just making its profit back but not enough to look like an epic blockbuster. Unlike ID4 that took the box office by storm in 1997.

  7. Please get the history right (though maybe this is the fault of the film, which I have not seen): The Yorktown was not a battleship; it was an aircraft carrier. Wade McClusky did not do a “dogged following” of anything, least of all a battleship. McClusky arrived at where the Japanese force was supposed to be, but they were not there. McClusky started a search pattern, saw a wake, followed it, and came up on the Arashi (a destroyer, not a battleship) racing ahead at top speed. He reckoned the Arashi was trying to join up with the main fleet, so he set off on the Arashi’s course, leaving the ship far behind. It did, in fact, lead his squadron (including Best) to the Japanese fleet.

  8. Rick Thompson

    Please get the history right (though maybe this is the fault of the film, which I have not seen): The Yorktown was not a battleship; it was an aircraft carrier. Wade McClusky did not do a "dogged following" of anything, least of all a battleship. McClusky arrived at where the Japanese force was supposed to be, but they were not there. McClusky started a search pattern, saw a wake, followed it, and came up on the Arashi (a destroyer, not a battleship) racing ahead at top speed. He reckoned the Arashi was trying to join up with the main fleet, so he set off on the Arashi's course, leaving the ship far behind. Taking that course did, in fact, lead his squadron (including Best) to the Japanese fleet.

    The movie definitely refers to them as Aircraft Carriers. That would have been unforgivable. Like calling a Truck a Tank.

  9. Rick Thompson

    Please get the history right (though maybe this is the fault of the film, which I have not seen): The Yorktown was not a battleship; it was an aircraft carrier. Wade McClusky did not do a "dogged following" of anything, least of all a battleship. McClusky arrived at where the Japanese force was supposed to be, but they were not there. McClusky started a search pattern, saw a wake, followed it, and came up on the Arashi (a destroyer, not a battleship) racing ahead at top speed. He reckoned the Arashi was trying to join up with the main fleet, so he set off on the Arashi's course, leaving the ship far behind. Taking that course did, in fact, lead his squadron (including Best) to the Japanese fleet.

    The Yorktown is in the film for a hot minute, I'll fix the inaccuracy.

    The film does show McClusky using the wake as a line of bearing, but it doesn't make clear if he follows the ship or flies ahead of it.

  10. Edit: changes inserted. Let me know if you see I got anything else factually wrong. Again, I am not a student of this history, there is a LOT going on in this movie, I am working from my memory and brief research literally hours after having seen the film.

  11. Yeah

    By stealthily moving forces to intercept the Japanese fleet, America turned the tide of World War II. They decisively wrecked the Japanese capabilities at Midway, including sinking their flagship destroyer and sole aircraft carrier.

    They didn’t decisively wreck Japanese Naval capabilities (overall), but they did deal a massive blow to Japanese Naval Aviation (their carrier force).

    There is no reason whatsoever to mention a destroyer loss, flagship or not. Its a minor ship.

    The US sank 4 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) carriers: Hiryu, Soryu, Kagi and Agaka. And they had more.

  12. Sam Posten

    Edit: changes inserted. Let me know if you see I got anything else factually wrong. Again, I am not a student of this history, there is a LOT going on in this movie, I am working from my memory and brief research literally hours after having seen the film.

    err, changes posted above

  13. Philip Verdieck

    Yeah. Just a bit more. The end of the first paragraph.

    They didn't decisively wreck Japanese Naval capabilities (overall), but they did deal a massive blow to Japanese Naval Aviation (their carrier force).

    The line about losses is reversed. We lost a destroyer and a carrier, both technically lost after the battle, the Yorktown was under tow, the Hamman was providing power to her and a Japanese submarine launched a spread of 5 torpedoes. One torpedo hit and sank the Hamman, and 2 hit the Yorktown. At that point we gave up on salvaging the Yorktown.

    The US sank 4 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) carriers: Hiryu, Soryu, Kagi and Akaga. And they had more left. We also sank 1 heavy cruiser, Mikuma.

    Correct, to be exact the IJN still had the following full sized fleet carriers left after Midway: Shokaku, Zuikaku, Ryujo, and Junyo with Hiyo launched a month or so after around July or August of 1942. Only 1 other operational full sized carrier was launched the Taiho which launched in March of 1944. Midway greatly reduced the Japanese carrier Fleet which was previously the largest in the world at that time. They were never able to reproduce while the US continued to build carriers and had at least a 3-1 carrier advantage from 1944 an on. While losing the overall operation at Guadacanal later in 1942 they did get a small revenge by winning the carrier battles at Guadacanal. Where the US lost The Hornet, the recently launched Wasp and had the Enterprise heavily damaged while the Japanese only lost the Ryujo. But it was too little too late at that point.

  14. Larry Carlson

    God, I love this forum. There are so many nice and knowledgeable people here. I feel like I’m reading mail from friends.

    :thumbsup::rock:

    This releases tomorrow. I will incorporate a few additional changes based on feedback tonight.

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