Midway (2019 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoland Emmerich
Written byWes Tooke
Produced by
CinematographyRobby Baumgartner
Edited byAdam Wolfe
Music by
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 8, 2019 (2019-11-08) (United States)
Running time
138 minutes
  • United States
  • Canada
  • English
  • Japanese
Budget$100 million[3]
Box office$127.4 million[4]

Midway is a 2019 war film about the Battle of Midway, a turning point in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The film was directed by Roland Emmerich, who also produced the film with Harald Kloser, and was written by Wes Tooke. The film stars Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Tadanobu Asano, Darren Criss, and Woody Harrelson.

The film was a passion project of Emmerich's, and he had trouble getting financial support for the film before finally raising sufficient funds and officially announcing the project in 2017. Much of the cast joined in 2018, and filming began in Hawaii. Some filming also took place in Montreal. With a production budget of $100 million, it is to date one of the most expensive independent films of all time.

Midway was theatrically released by Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment in the United States on November 8, 2019 and received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the visuals but criticized the screenplay. The film was a box office bomb, grossing only $126 million worldwide against the $100 million budget.[5]


In December 1937, Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton, an American naval attaché intelligence officer, is warned during a state function by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto that, because 80% of Japan's oil is imported, if the US were to threaten their oil supply then the Japanese would have no choice but to wage war.

On December 7, 1941, during World War II, following the US's decision to cut off Japan's oil supply, the Japanese launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, forcing the US to enter the war. In response, naval aviator Lieutenant Richard "Dick" Best and the Air Group of the carrier USS Enterprise fail to find the Japanese carrier fleet.

Admiral Yamamoto, with the support of Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, proposes an audacious plan to invade Midway Island using the four available Japanese carriers known as the "Kido Butai", but the Japanese Army overrules them. In February, the USS Enterprise launches raids against the Marshall Islands. In April, after Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, Yamamoto, Yamaguchi, and Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo are permitted to carry out their plan to attack Midway.

In May, following the Battle of the Coral Sea, Layton, along with Joseph Rochefort and his cryptography team, use signals intelligence to intercept Japanese messages about an operation against an objective identified only as "AF". Layton and his team believe that "AF" is Midway Atoll, while Washington believes it to be a target in the South Pacific. Still, the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, remains skeptical. To prove their theory, Layton instructs Midway to send an unencrypted message stating they are suffering from a water shortage. The Japanese pick up this signal and send an intercepted message about water shortages on "AF," confirming that "AF" is indeed Midway.

Hoping to mount his surprise attack, Nimitz orders the aircraft carriers USS Hornet and Enterprise to be recalled from the Coral Sea and demands that the damaged USS Yorktown be repaired in 72 hours for combat operations. Halsey is placed on shore leave due to shingles and is temporarily replaced by Admiral Raymond A. Spruance.

On June 4, the Japanese launch an air attack on Midway. Initial attempts by US land-based aircraft to strike the Japanese fleet carriers fail. However, Nagumo is shaken when a crashing American bomber narrowly misses the bridge of the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi in what may have been a ramming attempt. The submarine USS Nautilus tries to attack the Japanese fleet but is chased off by the Japanese destroyer Arashi. American squadrons attack the Japanese fleet without much luck, though the attacks prevent the fleet from launching their counterstrike. Upon spotting the Arashi from the air, Wade McClusky correctly infers the Japanese destroyer is rushing back to the main Japanese fleet and leads his planes to follow its course. Arriving to find the Japanese Combat Air Patrol at low level due to the previous attacks, the dive bombers score several hits on the Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga and Sōryū, resulting in fires and further explosions, crippling all three. The shell-shocked Nagumo is persuaded to transfer his flag. Yamaguchi, aboard the sole remaining intact carrier, Hiryu, launches a strike that succeeds in crippling Yorktown, prompting Enterprise and Hornet to launch their remaining aircraft in response. Best leads the squadron, which successfully inflicts heavy damage to the Hiryu. Admiral Yamaguchi chooses to go down with his command along with Captain Kaku, as Hiryu is scuttled.

Yamamoto orders a general withdrawal. At Pearl Harbor, Rochefort intercepts the Japanese order to withdraw and passes it to Layton, who then informs Nimitz. Best is discharged from the Navy for his lung problems, incurred due to the use of faulty breathing apparatus during the attack, and decides to return home to his wife and daughter.



Actor Role Notes
Ed Skrein Lieutenant Dick Best Commander, Bombing Squadron 6, USS Enterprise
Patrick Wilson Lieutenant Commander Edwin Layton Intelligence officer, US Pacific Fleet
Luke Evans Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky Air group commander, USS Enterprise
Aaron Eckhart Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle USAAF flight commander, embarked on USS Hornet
Nick Jonas Aviation Machinist's Mate Bruno Gaido Aviation crew, USS Enterprise
Luke Kleintank Lieutenant Clarence Dickinson Jr. Pilot, Scouting Squadron 6, USS Enterprise
Darren Criss Lieutenant Commander Eugene Lindsey Commander, Torpedo Squadron 6, USS Enterprise
Keean Johnson Chief Aviation Radioman James Murray Radio operator, Bombing Squadron 6, USS Enterprise
Alexander Ludwig Lieutenant Roy Pearce Watch officer, USS Arizona
Brennan Brown Commander Joseph Rochefort Chief Cryptanalyst, Fleet Radio Unit Pacific
Geoffrey Blake Commander John Ford Film director stationed at Midway Island on Special Duty
Jake Manley Ensign Willie West Pilot, Bombing Squadron 6, USS Enterprise
Mark Rolston Admiral Ernest King Chief of Naval Operations
Jake Weber Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance Commander, Task Force 16
Eric Davis Captain Miles Browning Halsey's chief of staff, USS Enterprise
David Hewlett Admiral Husband Kimmel Commander-in-chief, US Pacific Fleet
Dennis Quaid Vice Admiral William "Bull" Halsey Commander, Carrier Division Two
Woody Harrelson Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Commander-in-chief, US Pacific Fleet
Brandon Sklenar Ensign George "Tex" Gay Pilot, Torpedo Squadron 8, USS Hornet
James Carpinello Lieutenant Commander William Brockman Captain, USS Nautilus


Actor Role Notes
Etsushi Toyokawa Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto Commander-in-chief, Combined Fleet
Tadanobu Asano Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi Commander, 2nd Carrier Division
Jun Kunimura Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo Commander, 1st Air Fleet (Kido Butai)
Peter Shinkoda Commander Minoru Genda Air Operations Officer, 1st Air Fleet
Hiromoto Ida Prime Minister General Hideki Tōjō
Hiroaki Shintani Emperor Hirohito
Nobuya Shimamoto Captain Tomeo Kaku


Actor Role Notes
Rachael Perrell Fosket Dagne Layton Edwin Layton's wife
Kenny Leu Zhu Xuesan Chinese school teacher, who visited the US in 1932
Mandy Moore Anne Best Dick Best's wife
Dean Schaller Jack MacKenzie Jr. Ford's cameraman



On May 23, 2017, it was reported that Roland Emmerich would be directing the World War II film Midway.[6] Due to its potential lofty budget (with estimates putting its needed cost at $125 million), Emmerich had trouble getting the film greenlit. When no major studio would bankroll the project, he cut down on potential battle sequences and turned to individuals for the funds, resulting in $76 million; he then got an additional $24 million in equity, mostly from Chinese investors, resulting in the film's $100 million budget. It is one of the most costly independent films ever made.[3] Emmerich had previously attempted to mount the film at Sony Pictures in the 1990s, with William Goldman becoming interested in the project. However, as with the final rendition, executives balked at the proposed $100 million budget ($152 million by 2019 inflation), and Emmerich moved on to direct The Patriot.[7]

Harald Kloser also produced the film.[1] The Naval History and Heritage Command of the US Navy were involved in both the writing and production of the film.[8]


In April 2018, Woody Harrelson and Mandy Moore joined the ensemble cast for the film.[9] In July 2018, Luke Evans was cast in the film to play Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky, who was awarded the Navy Cross for his role in the Battle of Midway.[10] Robby Baumgartner was hired as cinematographer.[11] August saw the additions of Patrick Wilson,[12] Ed Skrein,[13] Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Tadanobu Asano, Dennis Quaid, and others to the cast.[14] Darren Criss, Alexander Ludwig, and Brandon Sklenar were cast in September.[15][16][17]


Filming began on September 5, 2018, in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was also shot in Montreal, Quebec.[11]

In November 2018, it was announced that VFX company Scanline VFX will be the main VFX vendor, and that Pixomondo had signed on to provide additional visual effects.


A photo from a press junket for the film

The film was released on November 8, 2019, Veterans Day weekend.[18]


A teaser poster for the film was released on June 4, 2019, which was also the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.[19] A set of 13 still photographs depicting scenes from the film was released on June 26, 2019, and the first trailer for the film was released the following day (June 27).[20] The second and final trailer of the film was released on September 12, 2019, with the film's theatrical poster on September 25.[21][22] All-in-all, Lionsgate spent around $40 million promoting the film.[23]

Home media[edit]

Midway was released on Digital HD on February 4, 2020, and on DVD and Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray on February 18, 2020.[24]


Box office[edit]

Midway grossed $56.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $70.6 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $127.4 million, against a production budget of $100 million.[4]

In the United States and Canada, Midway was released alongside Doctor Sleep, Playing with Fire, and Last Christmas, and was projected to gross around $15 million from 3,242 theaters in its opening weekend.[25][26] The film made $6.3 million on its first day (including $925,000 from Thursday night previews). It went on to debut to $17.9 million, beating box office expectations and upsetting projected winner Doctor Sleep by finishing first at the box office.[23][27][26] In its second weekend the film made $8.5 million, finishing second behind newcomer Ford v Ferrari, before making $4.7 million and finishing in fifth in its third weekend.[28][29]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 42% based on 169 reviews and an average rating of 5.2/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Midway revisits a well-known story with modern special effects and a more balanced point of view, but its screenplay isn't quite ready for battle."[30] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100 based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[31] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 4 out of 5 stars, with 58% saying they would definitely recommend it.[23]

Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail gave the film a score of 2/4 stars, describing it as "a Second World War epic that runs a comparatively paltry 138 minutes yet feels about five times as long", concluding that the film was "a choppy bore, its main source of intrigue centred around whatever New Jersey-ese accent British actor Ed Skrein is attempting as dive bomber Richard Best."[32] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film a score of 2.5/4 stars, saying that it "tells a story that's vividly and viscerally rendered, with all the entertainment value of a big, old-fashioned war movie", but added: "the kiss-kiss never really registers with quite the same impact as the bang-bang."[33] Wendy Ide of The Observer gave the film a score of 2/5 stars, writing: "Every tired war movie cliche is unearthed in a film that brings nothing new but will no doubt please fans of men in uniform yelling at explosions."[34]

Paul Byrnes of The Sydney Morning Herald gave the film a score of 3/5 stars, describing it as "one of [Roland Emmerich's] better films", but added: "There are a number of earlier versions to pick from, including John Ford's original 18-minute Oscar-winning documentary. We didn't need a new one, unless he had something new to say or a new way to say it. To both questions, the answer is no."[35] Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote: "The film's drama is B-movie basic. But the destructive colliding metal-on-metal inferno of what war is what makes Midway a picture worth seeing."[36] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described the film as being "so square, so old-school and old-fashioned, it almost feels avant-garde", adding: "It aims to celebrate heroism, sacrifice, determination and grit, and if you don't like that it really does not care."[37]

Historical accuracy[edit]

While the film takes some artistic license, Emmerich and Tooke were both adamant about being historically accurate, and Midway received praise from some combat veterans and historians for being more accurate of events than Midway (1976) and Pearl Harbor (2001). Naval History and Heritage Command director and retired Navy Rear Admiral Sam Cox said: "Despite some of the 'Hollywood' aspects, this is still the most realistic movie about naval combat ever made."[38]

Several seemingly "Hollywood-ized" events depicted in the film, such as Bruno Gaido sprinting into a parked plane to shoot down a crippled plane attempting to crash into the Enterprise, then getting promoted on the spot, occurred as shown, though according to USA Today, "Gaido hid after shooting the plane down, afraid he was going to get in trouble for leaving his battle station. "They had to hunt him down and bring him to Halsey", said retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Samuel J. Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gleiberman, Owen (November 6, 2019). "Film Review: 'Midway'". Variety. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  2. ^ "Catalogue - Elevation Pictures". Elevation Pictures. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Pamela McClintock (November 8, 2019). "Box Office: 'Midway' Downs 'Doctor Sleep' in Surprise Upset". The Hollywood Reporter.
  4. ^ a b "Midway (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  5. ^ "The Biggest Box Office Hits and Flops of 2019". Variety. December 23, 2019. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  6. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (May 23, 2017). "Bona Film Group Stakes $80M On Roland Emmerich/Mark Gordon WWII Battle Pic 'Midway:' Cannes". Deadline. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  7. ^ Donnelly, Matt (October 31, 2019). "Roland Emmerich Just Made a $100 Million Indie Film. Will It Work?". Variety.
  8. ^ "Navy Helps 'Midway' Film Crew Bring Battle to Life". US Department of Defense.
  9. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (May 2, 2018). "Roland Emmerich's WWII Epic 'Midway' Sets Sail With Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore & AGC Studios — Cannes Hot Pic". Deadline. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Kit, Borys (July 3, 2018). "Luke Evans Joins Roland Emmerich's Naval Action Movie 'Midway' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Marc, Christopher (July 24, 2018). "Roland Emmerich's WWII Epic 'Midway' Adds 'The Guest' Cinematographer - GWW". thegww.com. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  12. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 8, 2018). "Patrick Wilson Boards Roland Emmerich's 'Midway'". Deadline.
  13. ^ Kroll, Justin (August 9, 2018). "Ed Skrein Joins Roland Emmerich's World War II Film 'Midway' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.
  14. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (August 10, 2018). "Roland Emmerich's 'Midway' Enlists Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Tadanobu Asano, Keean Johnson, Ahead Of Fall Shoot". Deadline.
  15. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 12, 2018). "Emmy-Nominated 'Versace' Star Darren Criss Boards Roland Emmerich's 'Midway'". Deadline.
  16. ^ Kroll, Justin (September 13, 2018). "'Vikings' Star Alexander Ludwig Joins Roland Emmerich's 'Midway' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.
  17. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (September 19, 2018). "Brandon Sklenar Joins Roland Emmerich's 'Midway'; Tanner Beard Cast In 'We Summon The Darkness'". Deadline.
  18. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 5, 2018). "Roland Emmerich's WWII Epic 'Midway' To Open Veterans Day Weekend 2019". Deadline. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  19. ^ Barber, James (June 4, 2019). "Take a First Look at This Fall's WWII Epic 'Midway'". Military.com. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  20. ^ Truitt, Brian. "Exclusive: Watch the first trailer for 'Midway,' Roland Emmerich's World War II epic". USA Today.
  21. ^ Hemmert, Kylie (September 12, 2019). "New Midway Trailer: The Courage of a Few Will Change the Fate of the World". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  22. ^ Parlevliet, Mirko (September 25, 2019). "New Midway Poster: The Roland Emmerich Film Opening Nov. 8". Vital Thrills. Archived from the original on October 6, 2019. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  23. ^ a b c D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 10, 2019). "How 'Doctor Sleep' Went Into A Coma At The B.O. With Dreary $14M+ Opening, Following Surprise $17M+ Attack By 'Midway' – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  24. ^ "Midway DVD Release Date February 18, 2020".
  25. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 6, 2019). "'Doctor Sleep' Eyes $25M-$30M Box Office Start, Will Turn Out Lights On 'Terminator: Dark Fate'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  26. ^ a b McNary, Denis (November 8, 2019). "Box Office: 'Midway' Could Defeat 'Doctor Sleep' With $21 Million". Variety. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  27. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (November 10, 2019). "'Midway' Defeats 'Doctor Sleep' in Surprise Box Office Upset". Variety. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  28. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 17, 2019). "'Ford v Ferrari' Cruising To $30M+, 'Charlie's Angels' Kicked Out Of Heaven With $8M+ Start". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  29. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 24, 2019). "'Frozen 2' Thaws Frigid B.O. Marketplace With $130M+, Smashing November Animated Pic Opening Records". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  30. ^ "Midway (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  31. ^ "Midway (2019) Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  32. ^ Hertz, Barry (November 6, 2019). "Review: Choppy and clichéd Second World War epic Midway waves the white flag of defeat". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  33. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (November 6, 2019). "Review | 'Midway' is a big, old-fashioned war movie, with one thing missing: human beings". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  34. ^ Ide, Wendy (November 10, 2019). "Midway review – sinks like a depth charge". The Guardian. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  35. ^ Byrnes, Paul (January 29, 2020). "Midway review: More action distraction than history". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  36. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (November 6, 2019). "Film Review: 'Midway'". Variety. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  37. ^ Turan, Kenneth (November 7, 2019). "Review: 'Midway' celebrates heroism with an old-fashioned approach to the epic war drama". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  38. ^ Johnny Brayson (November 6, 2019). "This Historically Accurate WWII Movie Is The Anti-'Pearl Harbor'". Bustle. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  39. ^ Bryan Alexander (February 15, 2020). "How accurate is Roland Emmerich's WWII movie starring Nick Jonas?". USA Today. Retrieved July 10, 2020.

External links[edit]