Pearl Harbor (2001)


Introduction

Pearl Harbor is a 2001 American romantic war drama film directed by Michael Bay, produced by Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer and written by Randall Wallace.

It stars Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Colm Feore, and Alec Baldwin.

The film presented a heavily fictionalised version of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 07 December 1941, focusing on a love story set amidst the lead up to the attack, its aftermath, and the Doolittle Raid.

Outline

In 1923 Tennessee, two best friends, Rafe McCawley and Danny Walker, play together in the back of an old biplane, pretending to be soldiers fighting the German Empire in World War I.

In January 1941, with World War II raging, Danny and Rafe are both first lieutenants under the command of Major Jimmy Doolittle. Doolittle informs Rafe that he has been accepted into the Eagle Squadron (an RAF outfit for American pilots during the Battle of Britain). A nurse named Evelyn meets Rafe, who passes his medical exam despite his dyslexia. That night, Rafe and Evelyn enjoy an evening of dancing at a nightclub and later a jaunt in the New York harbour in a borrowed police boat. Rafe shocks Evelyn by saying that he has joined the Eagle Squadron and is leaving the next day. During a mission to intercept a Luftwaffe bombing raid, Rafe is shot down over the English Channel and is presumed killed in action. Evelyn mourns his death and turns to Danny, which spurs a new romance between the two.

On the night of December 6, Evelyn is shocked to discover Rafe standing outside her door, having survived his downing and spending the ensuing months trapped in Nazi-occupied France. Rafe, in turn, discovers Danny’s romance with Evelyn and leaves for the Hula bar, where he is welcomed back by his overjoyed fellow pilots. Danny finds a drunken Rafe in the bar with the intention of making things right, but the two get into a fight. They drive away, avoiding being put in the brig when the military police arrive at the bar. The two later fall asleep in Danny’s car.

Next morning, on 07 December, the Imperial Japanese Navy begins its attack on Pearl Harbour. The US Pacific Fleet suffers severe damage in the surprise attack, and most of the defending airfields are obliterated before they are able to launch fighters to defend the harbour. Rafe and Danny manage to take off in P-40 fighter planes, and are able to shoot down several of the attacking planes. They later assist in the rescue of the crew of the capsized USS Oklahoma, but are too late to save the crew of the sinking USS Arizona.

The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his Day of Infamy Speech to the nation and requests the US Congress declare a state of war with the Empire of Japan. The survivors attend a memorial service to honour the numerous dead. Later, Danny and Rafe are both assigned to travel stateside under newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle for a secret mission. Before they leave, Evelyn reveals to Rafe that she is pregnant with Danny’s child, and intends to stay with Danny.

Upon their arrival in California, Danny and Rafe are both promoted to Captain and awarded the Silver Star, and volunteer for a secret mission under Doolittle. During the next three months, Rafe, Danny and other pilots train with specially modified B-25 Mitchell bombers. In April, the raiders are sent towards Japan on board USS Hornet. Their mission: bomb Tokyo, after doing so they will land in allied China. The mission is successful, except at the end Rafe and Danny’s plane crashes. They are held at gunpoint by Japanese soldiers. A gunfight ensues, and Danny is mortally wounded shielding Rafe. Rafe tearfully reveals to Danny that Evelyn is pregnant with Danny’s child; with Danny’s dying breaths he tells Rafe that it is his child now. After the war, Rafe and Evelyn, now married, visit Danny’s grave with Danny and Evelyn’s son, also named Danny. Rafe then asks his stepson if he would like to go flying, and they fly off into the sunset in the old biplane that his father once had.

Trivia

  • The film was a box office success, earning $59 million in its opening weekend and, in the end, nearly $450 million worldwide, but received generally negative reviews from critics, who criticised the story, screenplay and dialogue, pacing, performances and historical inaccuracies.
  • It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning in the category of Best Sound Editing.
  • However, it was also nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture.
  • This marked the first occurrence of a Worst Picture-nominated film winning an Academy Award.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Michael Bay.
  • Producer(s): Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer.
  • Writer(s): Randall Wallace.
  • Music: Hans Zimmer.
  • Cinematography: John Schwartzman.
  • Editor(s): Chris Lebenzon, Mark Goldblatt, Steven Rosenblum, and Roger Barton.
  • Production: Touchstone Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.
  • Distributor(s): Buena Vista Pictures.
  • Release Date: 21 May 2001 (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii).
  • Running Time: 183 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English and Japanese.

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