This Week's Review: "Midway" and "Harriet"

The curmudgeon decided it was time to catch up on his growing backlog of films worth seeing; he did venture out of his cave during the November 23 weekend and managed to see “Midway” and “Harriet.” Both turned out to be good choices.

“Midway” manages to tie together two earlier films: “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and “Pearl Harbor.” You don’t have to see the earlier films to enjoy this new one, but it helps. I did not recognize many of the cast, but Aaron Eckhart is better as Jimmy Doolittle than Alec Baldwin and Dennis Quaid offers a more tormented version than James Whitmore of Admiral Bull Halsey. Woody Harrelson does well as Admiral Chester Nimitz.

The special effects are good, but there a few glitches; I was painfully aware that a scene in which a torpedo barely misses one of the American aircraft carriers didn’t look entirely credible, and I have heard others mention other scenes which weren’t quite right.  On the other hand, the scenes of the burning vessels at Pearl Harbor are almost too real to watch.

One part of the plot revolves around the disagreements between the code-breakers based in Hawaii and those based in Washington, DC. Needless to say, the code-breakers in Hawaii are much closer to the truth about Japanese strategy than those in Washington. I recently read Lynne Olson’s “Last Hope Island,” a history of Britain during World War II; her description of the internecine struggles between the various intelligence agencies are horrifying and disgusting. The entire book is certainly worth reading cover-to cover, and I strongly suspect that movies will be based upon its chapters.

I then stayed for “Harriet”; my generation barely heard of Harriet Tubman in fifth or eighth-grade history; we did hear a bit more in 11th-grade history, but it took college courses to bring home how important she was. This film will certainly garner some Oscar nominations, particularly for the lead actress. It has been quite a while since I read a biography of the “Black Moses,” so that goes on my reading list for next summer.

The curmudgeon will try to sneak out again during the Thanksgiving break and catch “The Good Liar,” “Knives Out,” and “JoJo Rabbit,” but the best-laid plans of mice, men, and curmudgeons do gang aft agley.