I almost want to spoil the entire plot of Pearl Harbor, just so that you have absolutely no reason to watch it. I sat through all 183 minutes of this bore, and by its conclusion, I wanted to be done with it forever. Then I realized I still had to write a review on it, and I actually became a little bit excited. At least, I was more excited than I was while watching the film. That’s saying something, right?
I won’t ruin the plot of the film, although there is likely a good chance you’ll know what happens. The film includes the attack on Pearl Harbor, and since this is a historical event, you already know what is going to happen. Notice how I used the word “includes”, rather than something like “focuses on”? There is good reason for this.
See, Pearl Harbor isn’t really about the attack on Pearl Harbor at all. It’s a setting, one which comes into the foreground for about 40 minutes, but a setting nonetheless. It gives us context for the rest of the film’s events, but isn’t really what the film focuses on. Instead, we are given a love triangle between our three lead characters, one which fails to resonate on any emotional level with the actors or with the audience.
From childhood, two friends have fantasized about flying planes. After they grow up, they get this opportunity. Rafe (Ben Affleck) and Danny (Josh Hartnett) are these people, and after they get accepted into the United States Army Air Corps, they get this chance. Once accepted, Rafe meets Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale), and the two quickly fall for each other. Soon enough, Rafe is sent off on a mission; a mission that he doesn’t return from. Danny steps up to the plate, and becomes Evelyn’s new significant other. Wait a second though! Rafe comes back from the dead, as he seemingly didn’t actually die when his plane was shot down earlier on. Now the two get to fight over Evelyn all the way until the film’s conclusion.
Along the way, we get a really impressive battle sequence. It’s crafted well, and seems to be the only thing that director Michael Bay did properly with this material. The part that actually is the attack on Pearl Harbor, yes, this is done right. Congratulations are in order for this 40 minute sequence. It doesn’t get boring, it stays creative, and you get a good sense as to what it could have been like to be a part of attack.
Unfortunately, these 40 minutes are about the only creative and interesting parts of Pearl Harbor. The rest of the film, all 140+ minutes of it, ends up being incredibly boring. When I had to switch discs to get the final portion of the film, I was tempted to just not do it and look up what happens online. That is how badly it bored me. I got tired of the characters and the words that they were speaking. I was done with the uninterested actors from a few minutes in. I just wanted it to end.
It almost seems like a trick, with the actual attacking of Pearl Harbor managing to break up the dryness of what comes before it. My interest was piqued, and it was held for a good amount of time. And then, as soon as the attacks end, I was lost again. We were back to looking at the characters and their relationships.
Why doesn’t this formula work though? Shouldn’t focusing on the characters make us care about them? Well, yes, that can be true. It’s just that in this case, it isn’t. This is because of two factors. The first reason is because of the way that the characters are written. The dialogue that they spew out of their mouths is terrible. They either seem to want to ramble on with long speeches or “foreshadow” something that we know is going to happen. They don’t speak like normal people would, especially given the situation they are in.
The second reason that we don’t end up caring about the characters is the fact that they are all poorly acted. None of the actors gave a good performance, with there being little to no emotion behind each line they speak. They didn’t seem to care much, and it came out in their performances. Nobody gave anything close to a good performance, with the best actors involved giving one that could only be called “mediocre” at best.
Pearl Harbor is a film that goes on for far too long, without telling a story that people actually care about. None of the characters resonate with the audience, despite getting far more focus than the actual attack on Pearl Harbor. While the actual attack scene is quite entertaining, right after it ends, and all the way up until it begins, the film is too boring to be worth a watch.