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Pear Harbor (sic) movie review

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Titanic meets some matey war film with the plot nicked from Bootmen. Personally, I preferred Sophie Lee and the tap dancing Newcastle steel-workers.


I hope you're ready for this: three hours of join the dots 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy, yeah you know the drill' set against the colourful background of America's entry into World War 2 Or. in other words, a love story with a war film squished in just to give the blokes something to look at: ooh, lots of explosions!

Movie Poster, Pearl Harbour, Festivale film reviews section
Movie Poster, PEARL HARBOR (sic)

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After a childhood flashback where we learn of the true mateship bond shared by Rafe and Danny (innocent farm boys who want to fly) we forward to the present (1940) where the two are about to achieve their goal as the U.S. dithers about whether to join World War 2: a question they won't have to worry about for too much longer.

Rafe, the more enthusiastic and charismatic of the two (Ben Affleck) falls for pretty English nurse Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) a few weeks before being shipped off to Britain to help the war effort. They pledge their love to each other and part ways. Many soppy letters ensue, and right on queue, his plane gets shot down and dearie me, Rafe is killed.

Meanwhile, both Danny and Evelyn have been conveniently stationed at Pearl Harbor (and boy is it hard to have to spell it the American way) and are devastated by Rafe's death. However, not so devestated that they waste much time mourning and it's not long before the two friends are comforting each other in a rather explicit, if unnecessary manner.

You can guess what's coming, right? Perhaps I shouldn't spell it out. Needless to say, there's no surprises and it was not a pleasure to be able to predict each character's fate the moment we met them "oh, she's going to die, he's going to be a hero who gets to shoot down a plane and he's going to do a very, very brave thing and die honourably".

The film looks sumptous though: the cinematography is close to flawless and the period detail impressive. I did get a little annoyed with the pretty girls playing at being nurses with their Veronica Lake hairstyles and ever present make up but I guess it wouldn't have been too far from the truth. These weren't after all, professional nurses, more horny young women enlisted for the cause (Evelyn even wears lippy to bed, it seems). 'Tie your hair back, love!' I wanted to yell out 'you'll get it covered in blood'.

Movie Poster, Pearl Harbour, Festivale film review
Ali says:
Sixty years on, Hollywood has revisited the war propaganda film, with new stars, new special effects, and the same story.

More ...

When it came to the crunch though, the nurses sank or swam. Pretty much the bravest of the lot in my humble opinion. It must have been hell for the medical staff, and they didn't get the glory of the more glamourous (i.e., killing) roles, neither in real life or in this film.

The soundtrack is calculated to wring out the emotion, the performances are uniformly dull (oh, please, some appreciation of irony would be nice!) and every one and every thing is taken far too seriously. If this is modern day blockbuster material, I can do without it.

The massive budget is apparent in the action scenes: hard-to-follow fighter planes zoom through the air accompanied by dizzying camera-work and star wars-like effects, leaving fireworks and massive explosions in their wake.

The ships in the Harbor (sic) provide many opportunities to utilise Titanic-style ship turning over stuff, all very nice to look at, but really did the U.S. Navy have sailors who couldn't swim? One was clearly heard to remark "I can't swim!" as that all important moment arrived.

The Americans are presented as well meaning but strategy-free zones. It's surprising they did as well as they did, if this snippet of history is anything to go by. I don't know that much about the events concerned, but hope the portrayal of the Japanese is accurate and sympathetic (although their motivation for the attack was shoddily handled: only eighteen months supply of oil left?) or else they might have trouble getting bums on seats there. Oh, yes, they really are screening it in Japan.

So, was it really that boring? Well, I had fun predicting the dialogue ... oh, here's a fighter plane scene. That means the boys get to say things like "I can't lose him, he's on my tail" and "I got him! (kapow!)". The sensitive scenes are handled mainly by meaningful eye contact: Ben Affleck deserves another academy award for keeping a straight face through some of his cheesy dialogue and had far too many facial expressions which looked like "think about the paycheck" to me. Apparently we can blame Gwynneth Paltrow for his involvement ... she talked him into it. The poor dear.

All in all, not the best use of an evening I've had recently. As it was the Melbourne Premiere, the location was the Regent Theatre, which has to be seen to be believed and my main source of entertainment. That and the stout paper bags handed out to all - oh, yeah, they contained goodies but there were moments when I could think of better uses for them.

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Add your comments Nicky Jenkins
Due for Australian release June 7, 2001
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Title: PEARL HARBOR (2001)
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