Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pearl Harbor (2001) [PG-13] ****

Rafe (Ben Affleck) and Danny (Josh Hartnett) were born in Tennessee at the end of WWI. Rafe's father was a crop-dusting pilot, and the boys grew up as best friends, with a love of flying. By 1941 they were both lieutenants in the Army Air Corps, and while undergoing an Army flight physical exam Rafe met and fell in love with Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale), an Army nurse. Unfortunately, their romance was cut short when Rafe was accepted into the Eagle Squadron, a group of US Army pilots flying with the RAF during the WWII Battle of Britain.

Meanwhile Kate and Danny had been assigned to duty near Pearl Harbor on the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i. After Rafe was shot down over the English Channel and presumed dead, Kate and Danny consoled each other, and their friendship gradually grew into a romance. So it came as a surprise when Rafe arrived on O'ahu late in 1941, a man returned from the dead. Rafe's love for Evelyn had kept him alive, so her romance with Danny caused Rafe to feel bitter toward both of them.

This romantic triangle was interrupted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, depicted as a betrayal and a one-sided massacre. The attack impacts the viewer especially deeply because of the individual human dramas that are part of the larger story, including romances between Danny's pilot friends and Evelyn's nurse friends. The film's last act includes a portrayal of the Doolittle bombing raid over Tokyo, depicted as a suicide mission.

Pearl Harbor is successful both as a romantic drama and as a war epic. It's especially powerful and compelling when describing the sacrifices made by the millions of American men and women who fought and died in WWII, a group that has come to be called the greatest generation. The lead and supporting performances are excellent, the sets are incredible, the cinematography is breathtaking, the computer graphics are masterful, and the musical score by Hans Zimmer is thrilling. 

Labels: action, drama, romance, tragedy, war, WWII
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 44/100    
Tomatometer (critics=25, viewers=67)    

Pearl Harbor soundtrack:
Tennessee (1923)
Tennessee - Original Soundtrack Theme
First Kiss
And Then I Kissed Him
There You'll Be (Faith Hill)
Tennessee (final scene)

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