Beckinsale has the dubious honor of being the love interest to both, which is a real shame for a woman as talented as this. Apparently, their farm boy charms worked some sort of mojo on her I missed. I'm sure somewhere on the planet, her story fall in love with one soldier who's presumed dead, but resurfaces after you've been impregnated by his best friend actually happened, but it's just overkill here. Not to mention the fact that she and Hartnett have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. He's a child compared to Ben and despite his and Beckinsale's shared pain at the apparent loss of Affleck, it just wasn't believable that she'd fall in love with him. For them to have us swallow that Hartnett is her true love is equally untenable, not to mention completely ridiculous. It also makes her character one of the most shallow on record. I understand it was wartime and people were forced to move on in the wake of a loved ones death, but this is too much, too soon. A few nights of passion to help dull the pain...sure, the rest of your life, despite the baby, I don't think so.
It's also a terrible shame that Cuba Gooding's character is lost among the romantic shuffle. He plays a true life hero Dorie Miller an African American cook who takes the battle into his own hands who's relegated to a side note. The armed forces didn't treat these men very well at the time, placing them in subservient positions. Clearly, the filmmakers didn't want to open that can of worms, so they threw the black community a bone by including Miller's acts of bravery on December 7th. What makes his story remarkable is that he'd never fired a weapon before that morning, yet helped take down several kamikaze fighter planes. Now that's a character I can stand behind. Of course, you don't learn this during the film. For that info, you have to watch the DVD extras. Despite Beckinsale's fickle heart, the nurses come off fairly well here. They truly played a significant part in saving many lives that fateful morning.
Though the final third of the movie dramatizes an important, if somewhat suicidal, mission, I found by that point, I really didn't care anymore. The attack sequence on Pearl Harbor is so overwhelming and powerful, our little moral strike on a few munitions plants in Japan just didn't seem big enough to be worth the sacrifice. Granted, we get them back in a big way 4 years later, but that knowledge doesn't help. It seems that Bay, et al., decided we, the audience, would thirst for blood, demanding retaliation for the losses we suffered. What I felt, more than anything, was sadness and fatigue. I needed redemption, but not at the expense of more lives. Of course, if they don't go, we miss Alec Baldwin's rousing speeches and the love triangle becomes a complicated mess. I know this was a real mission and I'm proud these men made the effort, it just doesn't have a point being included here.
After seeing the trailer, I was sure Bay blew his special effects wad. I've never been more wrong. The physical maelstrom he recreates is truly awesome in scope and expertise. I have rarely been so captivated by a motion picture as I was in those 45 minutes. The special effects team who worked on this film deserve every award there is. I feel like I truly have an understanding of what it was like to be alive in that moment at that place. It makes the mind reel. Bay again proves a sure hand at action. He just doesn't seem to know what to do with the people that take part in it. He manuvuers them through the film like paper dolls go here, do this never for a minute bothering to make them seem like living, breathing human beings. The reason classic action films like DIE HARD and DIRTY HARRY survive the passage of time is because they have well-defined characters that audiences can relate to.
PEARL HARBOR should have been the piece that finally merged Bay's action nature with human emotions. Instead, he hides behind the special effects, making a visually stunning, but emotionally bankrupt movie. It's ARMAGEDDON all over again. Though I had problems with the love story in TITANIC, at least it felt genuine. Here, it's nothing but manipulative and mopey. Probably included to entice the female audience to head to the theater. However, even Affleck is better than this tripe. Clearly, Bay is trying to evoke an old-fashioned feel. What he ends up with is hokey and tired. Watch this film for a gripping look at a seminal event in America's past. Whether you want to sit through the other 2 hours is up to you, especially if you have the DVD. Believe me, you won't care more for the characters more one way or the other.