Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pearl Harbor the movie

I've seen Pearl Harbor before, but PD put it back in our Netflix queue for another look (I was shocked to realize we don't own it, since PD is such a WWII buff and we own so many movies).

I realized as I watched it: Pearl Harbor has the bones of a Romance novel! It's not really about WWII, and it's not really 100% about Pearl Harbor. The story revolves around the relationship of Rafe, Danny and Evelyn. Rafe and Danny are boyhood friends - even as children Rafe stood up for Danny, whose father was apparently a bit strong-handed with his discipline. Since we only get a glimpse of this, it's not really fair to say he was abusive. Rafe's father flies crop dusters, and the boys imagine themselves as war pilots at a very young age.

Next time we see them, the two are hot-dogging it as Army pilots and get both praised and disciplined for their efforts by their superior Doolittle (of Doolittle's Raid). Rafe has volunteered to go to England to join a special group of American pilots assisting the war effort, and Doolittle tries unsuccessfully to talk him out of it. Rafe tells Danny he was assigned instead of admitting he volunteered so that Danny won't go - protecting Danny is apparently his motive.

Rafe met Evelyn, Army nurse, when getting their physicals, and they started dating. They've now fallen in love, and have a tearful goodbye when he heads off on the trip. Evelyn and Danny discuss it afterward, and Evelyn lets it slip that he went voluntarily, not as an assignment.

Rafe's plane is shot down over the English Channel, and he is presumed dead. Danny is the one to tell Evelyn, and they share a moment of grieving before going back to their own lives. Several months go by, and they meet again and get romantically involved. One thing leads to another - Evelyn gets pregnant, but doesn't tell Danny.

As it turns out, Rafe was rescued by a French sailor and has been in occupied France recuperating. When he shows up, needless to say, the balance is upset among the three of them, and all three are hurt and confused.

Now is when we get to the whole Pearl Harbor thing. Interspersed with all this romance, we see scenes of FDR and various military leaders talking about the war. Dan Aykroyd plays a military intelligence officer who has been trying to alert the higher-ups to their vulnerability in Hawaii. They are grouping all their planes and ships in one place, for one thing. But no one seems to listen to him until after the attack. Too little, too late. Day late dollar short. All that - in hindsight.

The movie directors went out of their way to create a realistic Pearl Harbor invasion scene. That's all they can talk about in the DVD extras. (wonder why they don't mention that the story is really a romance??) There are some secondary plot lines going on - Cuba Gooding Jr plays a black soldier who is assigned to a ship as a cook. We see his frustration at wanting to serve in combat but not being allowed because of his race. However, race and rank don't matter when the ships are being sunk at Pearl Harbor, and he manages to rise above and show himself a hero. There is a romance subplot with another soldier and a nurse; the nurse is killed in the attack.

Danny and Rafe manage to overcome their personal hostilities to work together during the invasion to get some planes in the air and between them shoot down 7 Japanese aircraft. Doolittle seeks them out to join his raid - a raid to show the Japanese they can and will fight back. Oh yeah, FDR finally commits to declaring war too. But the real story here is about both Rafe and Danny going off on an extremely dangerous mission. Rafe confronts Evelyn about why she betrayed him with Danny. In their argument, he learns that Evelyn is pregnant, and also that she is conflicted about which man she loves, but she tells him she is committed to Danny as the father of her child. Rafe tries once again to protect Danny, but this time it's really for Evelyn as he begs Danny not to go on the mission. Danny, not knowing about the baby, stubbornly refuses to let Rafe be the hero once again. Rafe doesn't betray Evelyn's secret, and both men go.

Spoiler alert in case you don't want to know the ending: the planes are shot down in China, which should be safe but there are Japanese troops. The Americans put up a good fight, and kill the Japanese, but not before Danny is killed. As he's dying, Rafe tells him about Evelyn's pregnancy.

Everyone knows who won the war. We get a voice-over with the details just in case. Then we see a young dark-haired boy as a toddler with Rafe and Evelyn walking arm in arm, and Rafe calls the boy Danny. It's a multi-tissue HEA worthy of any romance. 5 stars.

No comments: