Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Ben Affleck, Josh
Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Colm
Feore, Alec Baldwin
Director: Michael Bay
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 184 Minutes
Release Date: July 2, 2002
“Are all Yanks as anxious as you
to get themselves killed, Pilot Officer?”
“No, sir. Just anxious to
Yes, that is an actual four-star rating you see before you.
It may be the only one you ever see in your life, but I more than ever ready to
defend this motion picture, which was a box office smash, but is probably on the
verge of topping every critics worst movie of the year list…and for what
reason, I will never know, but I don’t really care to know, because I know,
and you know too, that as always, I’m right, and they’re wrong (hey, I think
I just created a new slogan for myself).
Right from the moment I first saw the teaser trailers for Pearl
Harbor nearly a year before the movie was even released, I knew it was going
to be a winner. The trailer was one of the most emotional ones I had ever seen.
I grew even more anticipated when I noticed that it was the latest project from
director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Bay and Bruckheimer are a
movie making duo I always enjoy giving props to, and the reason is a lot of
people don’t seem to enjoy bashing their films more than any other
filmmakers’, such as the case with Bay’s last movie, Armageddon, a
film that I keep defining as the epitome of “popcorn” movies, which are made
solely to entertain and nothing more. I was actually expecting critics to praise
the movie, since I was able to screen the movie before it came out, but sadly,
they wasted no time in bashing what I think is a remarkably grand and stirring
epic in the spirit of the classic epics of yesteryear.
There has only been one other pivotal Hollywood movie about
the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor, which was Tora! Tora! Tora!, a
classic in itself. That movie, for one made in 1970, did a remarkable job of
re-creating the Pearl Harbor attack, and Bay’s re-creation is simply awe
inspiring, complete with stunning visual effects and camera shots that gaze the
eyes with visual wonder. The entire attack sequence is one of the most
astounding action sequences ever put together for the lone reason that it
stretches to about 40 minutes in length, illustrating perfectly that three hour
and three minute running time will not bore at all.
The movie also blends in a sweeping story of romance and
friendship. At the center of the
story are Rafe McCrawley (Ben
Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett), childhood friends who go from tending
the farm as youngsters, to aspiring aerial pilots in the military circa 1941.
Rafe’s flying maneuvers capture the attention of Captain Jimmy Doolittle (Alec
Baldwin) who issues Rafe an opportunity to fly for England in the Battle of
Britain. Rafe quickly takes advantage, and on the eve of his departure, shares a
romantic fling with his girlfriend of some time, navy nurse Evelyn (Kate
Beckinsale). After several months fighting, Rafe is shot down into the sea, and
Danny and Evelyn receive information that he has been killed in action. Stunned
and heartbroken, Danny and Evelyn become close friends, and are soon engaged in
All is well, until on the evening before the fateful Sunday
morning, Rafe emerges from the dead, which was false information, and is stunned
when he discovers his best friend and the love of his life are in love,
especially since Rafe promised Evelyn very firmly before leaving that he would
come back. A brawl between the two friends occurs, and the next morning,
Japanese bombers emerge from the sky and ignite a massacre that will forever
remain the memory of America.
This lively epic is highlighted by a list of noteworthy
performances. Ben Affleck is in superb form as always as the heroic Rafe, and
Josh Hartnett remains a strong standout among the current parade of young actors
as he delivers impressively in the role of Danny. And then there’s Kate
Beckinsale, a pure beauty I might add, who actually has the look of a woman from
the era, and provides a strong willed female rarely seen in movies when she is
called to the horrific task of saving the many wounded men.
This long awaited director’s cut contains footage cut from the original theatrical version, which first earned the movie an R rating. The newly restored scenes, which are pretty much within the huge attack sequence, are very graphic and extremely gory. I can certainly say that it does add more authenticity to an already elaborate recreation of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Pearl Harbor is, I suppose, a love-it or hate-it
affair, as is the case with many mainstream blockbusters. For my money, the
movie is a work of grand scale and scope, and presents a truly outstanding
re-creation of a fateful time in American history, much like the ill-fated
voyage depicted in Titanic. Be prepared to have your senses assaulted and
your emotions stirred.
No difference at all from
the previous release. The image quality from Touchstone is superbly flawless in
its sharpness and scope enhancement. Unfortunately, like the original release,
the movie is presented on two discs, with about two hours and ten minutes on
disc 1 and fifty four minutes on disc 2. One of the pleasures of the DVD format
for me has always been the ability to view lengthy movies without having to get
up and insert a second portion, a la VHS. Such films as JFK, Magnolia,
and The Green Mile, which carries three hour plus running times are such
examples of discs that can be viewed on one disc, but my guess is that
Touchstone did it this way in order to ensure a dynamic video transfer, which it
Nothing has changed in
this department either; with the grand audio presentation which I initially
selected for the absolute best Audio transfer at last year’s DMC Awards. There
isn’t a single moment in this presentation that doesn’t carry with it a
striking ounce of sound presence, whether its from the sweeping score from Hans
Zimmer, to the endless roar and boom of the movie’s lengthy attack sequence,
which serves as a perfect scene to test your sound system with. Bottom line,
Touchstone should congratulate themselves for what I consider to be by far one
of the best audio transfers I’ve come across on any disc.
Gee…where to begin?
Buena Vista has applied their Vista Series collection to soaring heights with
this breathtakingly packaged 4 disc set that includes endless feats of extras to
keep you busy for days on end. In fact, the reason it’s taken me longer than I
would like to complete this review is the extras. Ever since I bought the disc
on its release date, I have found something new on it every day since then.
Disc 1 includes three
commentary tracks; one with Director Michael Bay and film historian Jeanine
Basinger, the second (my favorite one) with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and stars
Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Alec Baldwin, and the third with director of
photography John Schwartzman, costume designer Michael Kaplan, and production
designer Nigel Phillips. Also included is a brief featurette on the importance
of the film’s widescreen format titled “Why Letterbox?”
Disc 2 contains the
continuation of the three previously mentioned commentary tracks, as well as the
making of documentary “Journey to the Screen: The Making of Pearl Harbor”, a
music video for the Faith Hill song “There You’ll Be”, a preview for
National Geographic’s Beyond the Movie documentary, and a hidden feature
containing a very hysterical gag reel.
Disc 3 includes a
production diary, a segment at boot camp which captures the actors going through
some horrendous exercises in order to fully prepare for their roles, a Super-8
montage, three documentaries; “Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor”, “One Hour
Over Tokyo”, and “Oral History: The Recollections of a Pearl Harbor
Nurse”, plus a theatrical teaser and trailer for the film.
Disc 4 features an
interactive attack sequence, “Deconstructing Destruction”: A Conversation on
Visual Effects with Michael Bay and Eric Brevig, an Animatic Attack, Interactive
Timeline, and photo galleries. (EDITOR'S NOTE:
The Interactive Timeline is a real plus for history buffs!)