Watch this carpet-bombing!
Never mind The Mummy Returns.
The foremost purveyors of slam-bang kitsch, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon), bring you Hollywood's first real blockbuster of the summer in Pearl Harbor.
Boffo box-office returns are guaranteed thanks to the marketing gurus at Disney who have steadily created a buzz around the film.
But the real question is: does Pearl Harbor live up to the hype?
Pearl Harbor is more Titanic than Saving Private Ryan. It's more a corny wartime romance than a harrowing look at the horrors of war.
It interweaves a fictional love triangle into the backdrop of Japan's surprise 1941 attack on American naval facilities at Pearl Harbor, off the coast of Hawaii, that precipitated America's entry into World War II.
Bosom buddies Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) are young American fighter
pilots -- fresh-faced and eager.
WWII is raging on in Europe. But America's hands off policy means that these strapping young Americans spend their time conducting fun military exercises, attending nightly live entertainment shows and flirting with giggly army nurses. Life is good.
The brash Rafe pursues pretty nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale) who, after the requisite wooing period, succumbs to his persistent charms. But the lovers get separated when Rafe volunteers to go fight for America's ally England against the rampaging
During one encounter, Rafe's fighter plane plunges into the water and he is presumed dead.
Danny and Evelyn commiserate over their mutual grief and -- you didn't see this coming, did you? -- eventually become a
But in the best tradition of Hindi films, our man Rafe returns alive three months later. And the trio is thrown into a tizzy.
Ever so often, Bay cuts away for quick scenes of the buildup to the "day of infamy" as if to say: "Be patient and you will be rewarded with what you've come for."
And it does come almost 90 minutes into the film.
Hundreds of Japanese fighter planes swoop down over the unsuspecting Americans and blast the daylights out of the picturesque Hawaiian paradise for the next 45 minutes.
The special effects look amazingly real and set the gold standard for aerial bombing sequences. You almost whoop and cheer at the majestic pyrotechnics of Bay and his team. Till you realise that over 2,000 people died in the attack and, in some ways, set off a
chain of events that culminated with the even more horrifying bomb-drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In the aftermath of the attack, the relationship issues of the protagonists seem trifling. Still, the triangle has to be deconstructed because only one square-jawed chhokra can get the girl.
The resolution happens during the expertly filmed final sequence of America's retaliatory attack over Tokyo the following year led
by Major James Doolittle (Alec Baldwin).
One has to wonder if writer Randall Wallace (Braveheart) and Bay took a crash course in the art of
making love triangles from Yash Chopra.
They didn't learn all that well. Even a Hindi film hero would balk at mouthing some of the words which go, "I never want to watch a sunset without you."
But the skilled actors save the melodrama from sinking the film.
Ben Affleck is smooth as the hot rod, silver-tongued pilot. The only problem is he exudes the unmistakable aura of a modern-day guy. It's hard to see him belonging to a bygone era.
The two relative unknowns, Harnett and Beckinsale, are bound for stardom. Hartnett, with his all-American looks and solid screen presence, easily holds his own against Affleck.
Beckinsale looks radiantly beautiful. It's not hard to see why both Rafe and Danny fall for her wispy curls and toothy smile.
The film is too long and filled with a dozen more characters than needed. And Bay resorts to his usual shenanigans in the name of tugging at your heartstrings. He uses shimmering cinematography and Hans Zimmer's soaring background score to beat you
into submission with what he wants you to feel.
But hey, Bay and Bruckheimer are not Sultans of subtlety. They are the Badshahs of bombast and deliver the adrenaline-pumping war sequences with such mastery that it ultimately tilts the scales favourably.
So when Pearl Harbor carpet-bombs its way to a theatre near you, watch it.
It's a war epic. It's a love story. It's Hollywood masala.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr, Tom Sizemore, Dan Ackroyd, Jon Voight, Colm Feore, Alec Baldwin
Director: Michael Bay
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay
Writer: Randall Wallace