The Movie

Right

It has been many years since I have seen this movie and I must say when I saw it again I thought what most people think, it was awful. I did however look more closely at the historical aspects of the film when I watched it this time and it made me question just how bad the movie truly is. All the aspects of the military are correct, the uniforms, the planes, and the ships. The producers sent out requests to people with World War II era airplanes so they would have accurate planes. They even got special permission from the Navy to shoot on location at Pearl Harbor.[1] There are several real people like FDR played by John Voight, Alec Baldwin’s character Lt. Col. James Doolittle, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. as the Petty Officer Doris Miller. He really was a cook in the Navy and did shoot down several Japanese planes after they hit his ship. He received a Navy Cross for his bravery. The actual actions of two men by the names of Lt. Taylor and Lt. Welch are the basis for the part where Rafe and Danny drive to the other airfield, get in two planes, fly over Pearl Harbor, and take down several Japanese planes.[2] The top secret mission they go one after Pearl Harbor under the command of Lt. Col. Doolittle is also true. Lt. Col. Doolittle really did plan a top secret mission to fly bombers off of an aircraft carrier and bomb Tokyo in April of 1942.[3] This movie also does a really good job of portraying the emotions and sentiments of the times. The opening scenes, when the boys are young, show the carefree feeling and the naïveté of the American people in the pre-war era. Then during the actual attack the viewer really gets a sense of panic and chaos, as well as the utter desperation and despair the people felt. Even the activities the men and women participated in were accurate; there were fights between members of different ships, men and women went into the city to go dancing.

Wrong

Ok, so both Ben Affleck’s character Capt. Rafe McCawley and Josh Hartnett’s character Capt. Danny Walker are fictional, as is Nurse Lt. Evelyn Johnson played by Kate Beckinsale. The director also contrived the romance between the three. This makes the audience more emotionally involved in the movie. Rafe would not have been allowed to join the British air force while still a commissioned officer of the US Air Force. No one at Pearl Harbor would have flown on the Doolittle Raid. Doris Miller served on the USS West Virginia not the USS Arizona. Despite all the steps the director and producers took to be as accurate as possible there are some points in the movie where computer graphics had to be used to make it look like a whole fleet or there were more people. There are also a couple spots where more modern ships had to be used because World War II era ships were not available.[4] While there are not many major historical inaccuracies the problem with this film is the little things. All the events are correct but no one person participated in all those events.

Overall the directors did a good job historically. All of the war sequences are factually accurate. The main problem with the movie is the little inaccuracies and the completely made-up love triangle between the three main characters. The director and producers had the challenge of making a film about an event in United States history that everyone knows about and there are still survivors from. They wanted it to be accurate for the people who survived but they also had to make a movie that would entertain people and sell tickets. I think they achieved their goal. The movie is accurate and yet with the addition of the love triangle viewers are drawn into the story.

Pearl Harbor Project


[1] “Journey to the Screen: The Making of Pearl Harbor,” Pearl Harbor, DVD, directed by Michael Bay (Hollywood, CA: Touchstone Pictures, 2001).

[2] “Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor,” Pearl Harbor, DVD, directed by Michael Bay (Hollywood, CA: Touchstone Pictures, 2001).

[3] “Journey”

[4] “Journey”

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