Midway

“Midway” is so well done it receives rare five saw blades.

Some of us can remember the 1976 version of “Midway” where Henry Fonda played Admiral Chester Nimitz. The new version has Woody Harrelson in that role. We always hope that remakes of classic films go well, but Fonda to Harrelson seems like a slide rather than an advance. But the CGI ships and planes might be better.

Be content. Here we watchers get an instant classic.

Certainly, the producers picked a good director for this kind of heroic action-filled movie. Roland Emmerich has made some magnificent big-budget films, including the modern classics “Independence Day” and “The Patriot.” His 1998 version of “Godzilla” pleased audiences, but “10,000 B.C.” bombed.

Emmerich has a script written by Wes Tooke, a writer known for books about baseball and scripts for the TV series “Colony.” This marks his first feature film script.

A strong cast includes the heroic-looking Aaron Eckhart playing the actually heroic Jimmy Doolittle. Also appearing are singer/actress Mandy Moore, Woody Harrelson and Dennis Quaid.

The only reason for doing a remake of a famous film is to make it every bit as good, or even better if we have the luck. This film is pitch-perfect. The heroes do not boast, they do. The professional navy pilots must mute their natural warrior quest for individual victory in the interests of a disciplined attack on the enemy. Moore, Harrelson and Quaid all act to the top of their capacity.

Emmerich made a near flawless movie. The special effects have gotten so good that we readily accept the CGI aircraft as real.

The characters drive the story, they do not simply exist, full-blown, to slay the foe. They seem to us to be real people driven by history to heights of skill, courage, and sacrifice we civilians can never experience.

“Midway” runs for two hours and 18 minutes, so we get our money’s worth of entertainment. The PG-13 film gets a heroic five saw blades. I give five saw blades to a movie that is so well done, so emotionally compelling that I cannot see a way to make it better. Rare and valuable.

Ed Skrein plays a naval pilot in “Midway,” in fact the plot pivots on him. We also enjoyed him as the Russian half-robot Ajax in “Deadpool.” We can see him in the theater down the hall as Borra in “Maleficent.”

My movie industry pal said “Emmerich makes movie stars.” I bet we see Skrein again and often.

Named after the battle, CV-41, the USS Midway served from 1945 to 1992 to become the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. I had the honor of watching the film with a Navy veteran who served aboard her.

I shook the hand of a 104-year-old veteran the other day. Thanks, Francis, thanks Dad and thanks to the millions of our citizens who went to far places to fight and too often to die so that the rest of us can breathe free.

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