An aircraft carrier is sent on a decoy mission around the Pacific, with orders to avoid combat, thus lulling Japanese alertness before the battle of Midway. All the men have their ...
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An aircraft carrier is sent on a decoy mission around the Pacific, with orders to avoid combat, thus lulling Japanese alertness before the battle of Midway. All the men have their individual worries and concerns, but become increasingly frustrated at their avoidance of combat, for reasons unknown to them. But in the end, all get their chance to fight. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Director Henry Hathaway and his camera crew spent several weeks shooting approximately 50,000 feet of film aboard an American aircraft carrier. This included atmospheric shots, background footage and actual combat scenes. The "Hollywood Reporter" of 12 January 1944 reported that this footage was "the first ever approved by the Navy Department or War Department of any action on one of the new post-Pearl Harbor fleet plane carriers." Whilst on the flat top, Hathaway and crew also studied US Navy procedures and technical manual elements. See more »
Many of the US fighter planes shown in the movie are Grumman F6F "Hellcats." This plane was not used against the Japanese until September 1943. In the battle of Midway, the fighters would mostly have been Grumman F4F "Wildcats." See more »
I'm intrigued by war movies, especially war movies within a country at war. This also happens to be my country, and in fact -- though I will never know the details -- my dad was in this action. This has the required swelling of patriotic fervor at the end, and does so with a minimum of racist demonization.
Its about the one really risky time in the war. There was never any doubt that the Germans (and Italians) would lose in Europe once the US entered the war; the only question was the cost. But in the Pacific, the situation was truly dire between Pearl Harbor and this battle. After this battle, it was a war of factories.
But before, it was touch and go. Everyone in the States would have known the pivotal role of the event and would have their stories about tactics and bravery.
There are three notable things about this movie.
The first is that it is nearly all wrong in terms of the history. The reason for this is that the US had broken the code (JN-25). This was not something that could be announced; the US knew the details of the Japanese plans and were able to stage an ambush. But that hardly explains the other, gratuitous historical inaccuracies. One can only think that no one cared what the actual tactics were as long as communal dedication was apparent.
A second rather shocking thing is that all the combat footage is genuine. These are real warriors in the real place, with less than half of the movie (obviously overlain) produced as a fiction. Looking at these men and operations deepens the experience, knowing how rare it is to see this before Vietnam.
But the most interesting to me is one character. He's pretty much the central character of the fiction: a torpedo plane pilot. Now picture this; you have a real story of national import around which history does swing. You have actual footage which in other, later, contexts with narration stands strong. You have all this and you want to insert Hollywood; what do you do?
Well, you insert a character who is a Hollywood actor, someone who has left Hollywood and enlisted but who still carries his Oscar on combat missions! Its yet another example of this phenomenon I call the narrative fold. Pretty cool.
Oh, the fictional parts are bad in nearly all respects, excepting one scene. An airman has been killed and his buddy is packing his effects for transport back to his girl. Going through things to place in a suitcase, he finds an empty tube of toothpaste and tosses it in the trash. Then he reconsiders -- a very poignant moment -- and pulls it out of the trash to send to the woman. Its one thing that works. All the rest would wait to be decoded.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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