Director: Michael Bay
Synopsis: Timed to Memorial Day in 2001, the film is aimed to recapture our memories of the Japanese Navy sneak attack on the Hawaiian military base at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The film is a historical epic tangled with a bit of spicy love triangle. So, in case you were expecting to get entertained, then this is not the best film for you!
Michael Bay's film, Pearl Harbor, is an attempt to recreate the forgotten memories of the fateful day. The film is more of a historical epic not created to entertain the audience but rather to bring back the memories of what happened on that day. The film contains countless errors and inaccuracies although some details are historically accurate.
For example, the side story of Doris "Dorie" Miller, a chef in the US Navy, is based on real facts and events that occurred on the day of the attack. The characters of Rafe and Danny depict two actual air force fliers, George Welch and Kenneth Taylor.
Another similarity is evident when McCawley and Walker race in a Buick to Wheeler Airfield as did Welch and Taylor in reality. Similarly, Welch and Taylor claimed at least six of the 29 Japanese aircraft lost during the attack in fact. In the film, McCawley and Walker claim four each.
There is similarity both in reality and in the film in the style in which the Japanese planes approach the Pearl Harbor. It is also true that the planes did disappear from the US radars as the movie depicts. However, despite the similarities portrayed by the film, it equally contains a series of history faults worth noting.
For instance, most scenes shown earlier in the film date back to 1923. Danny's father (William Fichtner) is a crop buster. However, the view is flawed because the first US commercial crop dusting company didn't begin operating until late 1924.
One of the lead characters, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) has volunteered to join the RAF Eagle Squadron. However, this is not true in reality. Why? Because until December 7th, 1941, active US military personnel could not serve with what is termed as "aggressive nations," because at the time, USA was still a neutral power and had no allies.
Another flaw is evident in the battle scene in Cologne. The scene shows a US tank fighting in Cologne while in reality, this did not happen. Taking into consideration that the US didn't have any troops or military equipment in Europe until March 1945.
The character Mitchell Field gets the name after former New York City Mayor, John Purroy Mitchel. The error comes from the spelling. We can clearly see that the name Mitchel contains a mistake in the spelling.
Another mistake is evident in the mode of dressing of the women characters. They are not seen to be wearing stockings while the fashion was trendy at that time. Statistically, in the 1940s, virtually every adult woman in the states donned seemed nylon stockings.
Several military nurses in the film are seen to have longer hair. In reality, the military nurses at that time were not allowed to wear their hair longer than just above their collar. Also, Evelyn and her fellow nurses are seen wearing bikinis which were not available until 1946.
Another historical fault is evident in the scene where Jon Voight as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, expresses discontent that the American army is not doing enough to assist the allied powers to win the war. The fault emanates when he suggests that they send more tanks to assist Britain and Russia. I reality, this is incorrect because, at the time, Russia was still an ally of Nazi Germany.
There is an image of Willys Jeep M38 model in a scene on the golf course. In the real sense, this is a fault of this jeep type of model wasn't available until 1950.
There is an image of a Spitfire c1941 with a four-blade Rotol propeller seen in one of the scenes in England. In reality, there wasn't the introduction of Rotol propellers on the Spitfires until 1943. If anything, all Spitfires c1941 at that time had three-blade constant pitch propellers.
A sailor can be seen betting with $5 bill with the "Hawaii" Overprint on it. Even though there were a series of $5 bills donning the "Hawaii" Overprint at that time, these notes weren't available for use until July 1942.
A Knox-class frigate is seen passing behind Kimmel in one of the scenes in the film. However, commissioning of this class type of frigate wasn't done until 1969.
At one point in the film, Admiral Kimmel receives a message which revealed that the Japanese government had issued orders for the destruction of all coding equipment. In reality, he never received such the message.
In the film, the Arizona is hit so early in the battle. In fact, it was 20 minutes into the fight before it was hit and exploded. There is an image of a Japanese Nakajima B5N planes fitted with an American M1919.30-calibre tail gun in the film. There is no way in reality how a Japanese plane would have been equipped with an American gun.
At one point in the film, the Japanese pilots are shown putting on Hachimaki headbands and drinking sake before the mission. However, in reality, the ritual was created for the special attack, kamikaze, and only came into existence several years later.
The fighting sequences in which the Japanese planes were flying impossibly high and improbably small is a fault as this is not possible in reality.
In the film, the Japanese Zero planes are painted dark green while in fact they were painted light gray. Nevertheless, they were painted green in 1943.
It is imperative to note that the aim of the film is at an audience with no vivid memory or understanding about the events of the Pearl Harbor attack. Although it is rich with memorable quoting lines of dialogue, the film lacks a sense of history and is directed without originality or vision. Most critics will agree with me that the movie does not have a strong historical appeal and is seen to base its main theme on a sappy romance that happens to take place during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Harbor, Pearl. "Michael Bay." Touchstone (2001).
Harbor, Pearl. "Directed by Michael Bay." Buena Vista Pictures (2001).
Sunshine, Linda, et al., eds. Pearl Harbor: The Movie and the Moment. Hyperion Books, 2001.
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