MidwayThis film belongs in 2 categories. First, Midway followed a long line of epic Hollywood WWII films such as Tora, Tora, Tora, The Longest Day, The Great Escape, Battle of the Bulge, The Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare, and Patton among others. Second, although not a disaster film, Midway showcased the big all-star cast that was so popular in 70s disaster films like Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, and Airport.

Midway has a GREAT cast and watching the film made me wish the studios could still afford gathering a bunch of big names to star in one movie. Here you’ve got Henry Fonda, Charlton “From My Cold Dead Hands” Heston, Glenn Ford (Superman’s dad), Hal Holbrook, James Coburn, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man’s uncle), and Robert Wagner. First off, is there anyone more American than Henry Fonda? Hell no! Not even Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne could exhibit the essence and values of this country like Henry Fonda did. Appropriately, Fonda plays Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the Navy mastermind of World War II’s Pacific Theater. Despite his physical frailty (the film was made a few years before Fonda died), Fonda plays the character with sure confidence. Charlton Heston plays the only fictional character in the film. His character was intended to add a dramatic element to the film. I’ve always considered Heston to be an overdramatic actor who hams up his performances too much. However, there is no doubt he had a very strong screen presence. Even if you don’t know who he is, you cannot help but notice him when he enters the screen. The rest of the cast has varying amounts of screen time (Robert Mitchum is in one brief scene, which he shot in one day) with Hal Holbrook and Glenn Ford standing out among them. Its amazing to watch such a high caliber of talent sharing the screen together. These actors belonged to a very different generation of actors than the one we have today in style and stature. When you watch this film, you feel like you are watching real movie stars at play.

Midway is not a straight up action film (you don’t see any action until at least 1 hour and 10 minutes into the film). Its not your typical drama either. It has a mix of both, but I would classify this as being almost a docudrama. The filmmakers injected a dramatic subplot involving an interned Japanese woman who has a relationship with a Navy fighter pilot. However, the script is structured more like a chronological retelling of the Battle of Midway. With that said, this film is not for everyone. If you are a history buff, particularly a WWII enthusiast, this film is for you. If you like war movies, this film is for you. If you’re looking for a heavily dramatic story or a film with non-stop, balls-to-the-wall action, you might want to skip Midway. I liked the film quite a bit because I love history and WWII and I especially enjoyed watching the cast’s performance. What did disappoint me was John Williams’ score. For a composer who was just coming off Jaws, one would expect a much more memorable film score than the forgettable, background music he gives here.

One thing worth noting is the release year of this film. The Vietnam War ended one year prior in 1975 and the U.S. was a country in moral turmoil. Our government and especially its military was unpopular with the public and the country as a whole was a far different place than what it was in World War II. Midway served as a sharp contrast to the prevailing mood at the time. The film served as a reminder of what this country used to be. Under these circumstances, its kind of amazing the film was made at all.

Most of you will probably not rush out to rent or buy this. However, if you like your war film with a lot of procedural history or you’d like to see something with a lot of great actors whose presence alone is worth watching, you won’t be wasting your time with this film.

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