by Tony O'BrienNews Weekly
Film - Pearl Harbor, a film that will live in infamy
, June 30, 2001
There are three fundamentals for good fiction. First, there must be a hero and a villain; second, there must be conflict between them; finally, there must be a resolution. How does Pearl Harbor fare?
Of all the movies made surrounding Pearl Harbor, Tora Tora Tora (1970), a picture without heroes or villains, no tension, and no resolution, was the dud. Pearl Harbor itself has its visual moments; superb graphics of Spitfires, Zeros, bombers, sinking ships even a Sante Fe locomotive in steam. In parts, the swing music, uniforms and clothes, cars, locomotive whistles and images replicate the era. That is where the film's virtues end.
Sixty years after America's entry into World War II, it should be possible to get the story right. However, for those hoping to gain from Pearl Harbor an historical insight into that day of infamy, forget it.
Remember when the politically correct scribblers got hold of the fable Little Red Riding Hood and erected a monument to the poor hungry wolf that represented an oppressed minority? Remember how Red Riding Hood herself lured the wolf to his death, whilst her father was imprisoned for firearm violations (and you can imagine the rest)? Well, the same folks scripted Pearl Harbor.
In Pearl Harbor there are two heroes and a heroine. But, the villain; ah, there is the rub. The villain in this movie is not Japan's Prime Minister Tojo, nor even Admiral Yamamoto who launched the attack against Pearl Harbor, nor the Emperor Hirohito, but Hitler. At one point, the movie playing in New York is The Great Dictator (1940), Charlie Chaplain's satire against Hitler.
In one touching scene, the hero Rafe (Ben Affleck) spends his last night in New York City before heading off to England to fight Hitler. Next morning lovesick Rafe boards a train to London; how it arrives there remains a mystery. Much of the movie focusses on the Battle of Britain.
Pearl Harbor's Japanese, like the wolf in the politically correct Little Red Riding Hood, are sensitive and caring gentlemen, concerned for the fate of kids they are about to bomb.
These stone-faced knights have no alternative but to bomb the ungrateful Yanks who cut off Japan's oil for no stated reason. As in Tora, the Japanese speak their own language which is subtitled until after the bombing, when they learn to speak English.
Some of the greatest historical nonsense in Pearl Harbor involves Franklin D. Roosevelt (played by Jon Voigt). The script has FDR in 1940 pontificating about how the gallant Russians and heroic Joe Stalin need tanks from the neutral USA to fight the Germans.
Viewers are meant to believe that FDR wanted to enter the European war, calipers and all. Ignored by the script is the fact that in 1940, the heroic Stalin was Germany's ally. Operation Barbarossa did not occur until June 22, 1941; and Hitler did not declare war on the USA until December 11. All this is overlooked in Pearl Harbor.
Affirmative Action concessions to American minorities are present in this mish-mash. A cook, Miller (Cuba Gooding Jnr), who has never before fired a machine gun, shoots down a couple of Zeros - copying Steven Segal's cook in Under Siege (1992) - and wins the Navy Cross. In reality Miller won the medal, but not for this fictional action.
After the bombing itself (December 7, 1941), the polio victim FDR is shown as rising to his iron-shackled legs and berating his generals, urging them to be courageous, like him. Thank goodness this FDR hasn't had an appendix operation. Undeterred, Pearl Harbor's FDR then praises the submarine service, on the grounds that submariners have "no time for bulls__t". Maybe they don't, but the movie does, and by this time it's wallowing in the stuff.
The driving force behind Pearl Harbor, as behind Titanic (1997), is Hollywood's interpretation of a tender love story.
In short, an army nurse (Kate Beckinsale) falls in love with Rafe. Rafe is posted and allegedly Killed In Action (although in fact he isn't); but his pilot buddy Ben (Josh Harnett) gets Kate pregnant. Herein begins a conflict, because Rafe reappears. Ben is killed. Kate gets Rafe back, and they both get Ben's baby. Dead Ben, like the wolf, gets his own memorial back on Rafe's farm.
Perhaps it's a pity that at this stage of the fiction, Rafe isn't killed. This would have allowed Kate to emerge as a single mum, raising Ben's love-child to become a Democratic adviser in JFK's 1960 presidential campaign, after which she could have appeared on Oprah. This may have provided a better resolution to a confused, if graphic, three-hour film than what Pearl Harbor's producers have actually given us.