Pearl Harbor (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Bay|
|Written by||Randall Wallace|
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
|Box office||$449.2 million|
Pearl Harbor is a 2001 American romantic action war film directed by Michael Bay, produced by Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer and written by Randall Wallace. Starring actors include Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Colm Feore, and Alec Baldwin.
The film is a dramatic retelling of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and the Doolittle Raid. Despite receiving generally negative reviews from critics, the film was a major box office success, earning $59 million in its opening weekend and, in the end, nearly $450 million worldwide. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning in the category of Best Sound Editing. However, it was also nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture. This marked the first occurrence of a Worst-Picture-nominated film winning an Academy Award.
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In 1923 Tennessee, two young boys, Rafe McCawley (Jesse James) and Danny Walker (Reiley McClendon), play together in the back of an old biplane, pretending to be soldiers fighting the Germans in World War I. After Rafe's father lands his biplane and leaves, Rafe and Danny climb into the plane and Rafe accidentally starts it, giving the boys their first experience at flight. Danny's father (William Fichtner) calls Rafe a "stupid boy" and beats Danny. In an effort to protect Danny, Rafe hits Danny's father with an old propeller and calls him a "dirty German". Danny's father reacts by saying he fought the Germans in the trenches in France during World War I, and that he prays that no one will ever have to see the things he saw.
Eighteen years later, in January 1941, Danny (Josh Hartnett) and Rafe (Ben Affleck) are both first lieutenants under the command of Major Jimmy Doolittle (Alec Baldwin). Doolittle informs Rafe that he has been accepted into the Eagle Squadron (a RAF outfit for American pilots during the Battle of Britain). Rafe immediately accepts the position. Rafe lies to Danny, though, saying that he was assigned by Doolittle and had no say in the matter.
While on a train ride to New York, a nurse named Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) tells her fellow nurses Sandra (Jennifer Garner), Betty (Jaime King), Martha (Sara Rue), and Barbara (Catherine Kellner) the story of how she met Rafe four weeks earlier after she passed his medical exam despite his dyslexia. That night, Rafe and Evelyn enjoy an evening of dancing at a nightclub and later a jaunt in New York harbor in a borrowed police boat. Rafe shocks Evelyn by saying that he has joined the Eagle Squadron and is leaving the next day. He asks her not to see him off, but is pleased to see that she comes anyway as he leaves the following morning.
In the meantime, Danny, Evelyn and their fellow pilots and nurses are transferred to Pearl Harbor, where there is little action; meanwhile, Rafe flies in numerous dogfights with the RAF against the Luftwaffe. During one battle, Rafe is shot down over the English Channel and presumed to be killed in action. Danny gives Evelyn the news and she is devastated. It is then that Danny learns from Evelyn that Rafe volunteered for the assignment.
Three months later, Evelyn and Danny realize they are developing feelings for each other. Danny takes Evelyn for a sunset flight over the harbor and begins a relationship with her.
On the night of December 6, Evelyn is shocked to discover Rafe, alive and well, standing outside her door. He explains that he survived his aircraft crash and was rescued by a French fishing boat, and has been stuck in occupied France ever since. Danny comes soon afterward holding a telegram from Western Union stating that Rafe is in fact alive. Rafe realizes that Danny and Evelyn are now together and leaves feeling betrayed. He goes to the Hula bar where he is welcomed back by his overjoyed fellow pilots. Danny finds Rafe in the bar with the intention of making things right but a drunken Rafe will have none of it. The two get into a fight. When the police arrive, Danny and Rafe drive away and, after talking, eventually fall asleep in their car.
Early the next morning, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese navy begins its attack on Pearl Harbor. The two pilots drive away in search of a still standing airfield, while Evelyn and the other nurses rush for the hospital. The nurses struggle to give emergency treatment to hundreds of injured, some of whom must be turned away because they cannot be saved. Rafe and Danny manage to get in the air in two P-40s, shooting down seven Japanese Zeros. The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Jon Voight) delivers his Day of Infamy Speech to the nation and asks the US Congress to declare a state of war with the Empire of Japan.
In the aftermath, the survivors attend a memorial service to honor the numerous dead, including fellow nurses and pilots. Later, Danny and Rafe are assigned to travel stateside under newly promoted Lt. Colonel Doolittle for a secret mission. Before they leave, Evelyn reveals to Rafe that she is pregnant with Danny's child and that she will remain with Danny, though she claims she will always love Rafe just as much.
Upon their arrival in California, Danny and Rafe are both promoted to Captain and awarded the silver star. Doolittle asks them to volunteer for a top secret mission, which they both immediately accept although the risks are high. While sitting at a bonfire on a beach, Rafe attempts to dissuade Danny from going, but Danny decides to go anyway, thinking that Rafe is just trying to protect him. During the next three months, Rafe, Danny and other pilots train with specially modified B-25 Mitchell bombers, learning how to launch them with a limited runway. In April, the raiders are sent towards Japan on board the USS Hornet, and are informed that their mission will involve bombing Tokyo and then landing in China. However, the Japanese discover them early, forcing the raiders to launch from a longer distance than planned. After a successful bombing run against Tokyo, the raiders crash-land on Japanese-occupied territory in China in a rice paddy. The Japanese Army pin down Rafe's plane, but Danny's crew flies over and shoots the Japanese patrol before crashing.
Rafe runs to Danny's side and attempts to pull a sharp piece of metal from Danny's neck, but they are once again attacked by Japanese patrols. Danny is shot during the attack while the other pilots, Red (Ewen Bremner) and Gooz (Michael Shannon), kill off the remaining Japanese patrolmen. Holding a dying Danny in his arms, Rafe tells Danny that he can't die because he is going to be a father, to which the dying Danny replies that Rafe will have to be the father. The remaining pilots are rescued by the Chinese. Upon his return home, a visibly pregnant Evelyn sees Rafe getting off the aircraft, carrying Danny's coffin.
Afterward, both Evelyn and Miller are awarded medals. Rafe is awarded his medal by President Roosevelt. A few years later after the war ends, Rafe and Evelyn, now married, visit Danny's grave with Danny's and Evelyn's son, also named Danny. Rafe asks baby Danny if he would like to go flying, and the two fly off into the sunset in the old biplane that his father had.
- Ben Affleck as First Lieutenant (later Captain) Rafe McCawley
- Jesse James as young Rafe McCawley
- Josh Hartnett as First Lieutenant (later Captain) Daniel "Danny" Walker
- Reiley McClendon as young Danny Walker
- Kate Beckinsale as Lieutenant Evelyn Johnson
- Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Petty Officer Second Class Dorie Miller
- Tom Sizemore as Earl
- Jon Voight as President Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Colm Feore as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel
- Mako as Kaigun Taishō (Admiral) Isoroku Yamamoto
- Alec Baldwin as Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Jimmy Doolittle
- William Lee Scott as First Lieutenant Billy Thompson
- Greg Zola as First Lieutenant Anthony Fusco
- Ewen Bremner as First Lieutenant Red Winkle
- James King as Nurse Betty Bayer
- Catherine Kellner as Nurse Barbara
- Jennifer Garner as Nurse Sandra
- Michael Shannon as First Lieutenant Gooz Wood
- Matt Davis as Joe
- Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Kaigun Chūsa (Commander) Minoru Genda
- Dan Aykroyd as Captain Thurman
- Scott Wilson as General George Marshall
- Graham Beckel as Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
- Tom Everett as Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox
- Tomas Arana as Rear-Admiral Frank J. 'Jack' Fletcher
- Peter Firth as Captain Mervyn S. Bennion
- Glenn Morshower as Vice Admiral William F. 'Bull' Halsey Jr.
- Madison Mason as Admiral Raymond A. Spruance
- Sara Rue as Nurse Martha
- Kim Coates as Lieutenant Jack Richards
- Michael Shamus Wiles as Captain Marc Andrew "Pete" Mitscher
- William Fichtner as Mr. Walker (Danny's father)
- Steve Rankin as Mr. McCawley (Rafe's Father)
- Andrew Bryniarski as Joe the Boxer
- Leland Orser as Major Jackson
- Michael Milhoan as Army Commander
- Eric Christian Olsen as gunner to Captain McCawley
- David Kaufman as young nervous doctor
- Brandon Lozano as Baby Danny McCawley (Danny's and Evelyn's son)
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The proposed budget of $208 million that Bay and Bruckheimer wanted was an area of contention with Disney executives, since a great deal of the budget was to be expended on production aspects. Also controversial was the effort to change the film's rating from R to PG-13. Bay wanted to graphically portray the horrors of war and was not interested in primarily marketing the final product to a teen and young adult audience. Budget fights continued throughout the planning of the film, with Bay "walking" on several occasions.
In order to recreate the atmosphere of pre-war Pearl Harbor, the producers staged the film in Hawaii and used current naval facilities. Many active duty military members stationed in Hawaii and members of the local population served as extras during the filming. The set at Rosarito Beach in the Mexican state of Baja California was utilized for scale model work as required. Formerly the set of Titanic (1997), Rosarito served as the ideal location to recreate the death throes of the battleships in the Pearl Harbor attack. A large-scale model of the bow section of the USS Oklahoma mounted on a gimbal produced an authentic rolling and submerging of the doomed dreadnought. Production Engineer Nigel Phelps stated that the sequence of the ship rolling out of the water and slapping down would involve one of the "biggest set elements" to be staged. Matched with computer generated imagery, the action had to reflect precision and accuracy throughout. In addition, to simulate the ocean, the film crew used a massive stadium-like "bowl" filled with water. The bowl was built in Honolulu, Hawaii and cost nearly $8 million. Today the bowl is used for scuba training and deep water fishing tournaments.
The vessel most seen in the movie was the USS Lexington, representing both the USS Hornet and a Japanese carrier. All aircraft take-offs during the movie were filmed on board the Lexington. Other ships used in filler scenes included USS Hornet, and USS Constellation during filming for the carrier sequences. Filming was also done on board the museum battleship USS Texas located near Houston, Texas.
Aircraft take offs on both American and Japanese aircraft carriers shared the same design because those scenes were filmed on the Essex-class carrier USS Lexington, which is currently a museum ship in Corpus Christi, Texas. The aircraft on display were removed for filming and were replaced with film aircraft as well as WWII anti-aircraft turrets.
Pearl Harbor grossed $198,542,554 at the domestic box office and $250,678,391 overseas for a worldwide total of $449,220,945, ahead of Shrek. The film was ranked the sixth highest-earning picture of 2001. It is also the third highest-grossing romantic drama film of all time, as of January 2013, behind Titanic and Ghost.
Despite the box office success, the film received generally negative reviews from critics. It has a 25% approval rating according to review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes (based on 190 reviews with an average rating of 4.5/10), making it Bay's fourth worst reviewed movie to date, next to Transformers: Age of Extinction, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Bad Boys II. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 44 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". While it earned praise for its technical achievements, the screenplay and acting were popular targets for criticism.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one and a half stars, writing: "Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality. The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them", and criticized its liberties with historical facts: "There is no sense of history, strategy or context; according to this movie, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because America cut off its oil supply, and they were down to an 18-month reserve. Would going to war restore the fuel sources? Did they perhaps also have imperialist designs? Movie doesn't say".
A. O. Scott of the New York Times wrote, "Nearly every line of the script drops from the actors' mouths with the leaden clank of exposition, timed with bad sitcom beats". USA Today gave the film two out of four stars and wrote, "Ships, planes and water combust and collide in Pearl Harbor, but nothing else does in one of the wimpiest wartime romances ever filmed."
In his review for The Washington Post, Desson Howe wrote, "although this Walt Disney movie is based, inspired and even partially informed by a real event referred to as Pearl Harbor, the movie is actually based on the movies Top Gun, Titanic and Saving Private Ryan. Don't get confused." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "Affleck, Hartnett and Beckinsale – a British actress without a single worthy line to wrap her credible American accent around – are attractive actors, but they can't animate this moldy romantic triangle". Time magazine's Richard Schickel criticized the love triangle: "It requires a lot of patience for an audience to sit through the dithering. They're nice kids and all that, but they don't exactly claw madly at one another. It's as if they know that someday they're going to be part of "the Greatest Generation" and don't want to offend Tom Brokaw. Besides, megahistory and personal history never integrate here".
Entertainment Weekly was more positive, giving the film a "B−" rating, and Owen Gleiberman praised the Pearl Harbor attack sequence: "Bay's staging is spectacular but also honorable in its scary, hurtling exactitude. ... There are startling point-of-view shots of torpedoes dropping into the water and speeding toward their targets, and though Bay visualizes it all with a minimum of graphic carnage, he invites us to register the terror of the men standing helplessly on deck, the horrifying split-second deliverance as bodies go flying and explosions reduce entire battleships to liquid walls of collapsing metal".
In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "here is the ironic twist in my acceptance of Pearl Harbor – the parts I liked most are the parts before and after the digital destruction of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese carrier planes" and felt that "Pearl Harbor is not so much about World War II as it is about movies about World War II. And what's wrong with that?"
Like many historical dramas, Pearl Harbor provoked debate about the artistic license taken by its producers and director. National Geographic Channel produced a documentary called Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor detailing some of the ways that "the film's final cut didn't reflect all the attacks' facts, or represent them all accurately".
Many Pearl Harbor survivors dismissed the film as grossly inaccurate and pure Hollywood. In an interview done by Frank Wetta, producer Jerry Bruckheimer was quoted saying: "We tried to be accurate, but it's certainly not meant to be a history lesson". Historian Lawrence Suid's review is particularly detailed as to the major factual misrepresentations of the film and the negative impact they have even on an entertainment film. Some other historical inaccuracies found in the film include the early childhood scenes depicting a Stearman biplane crop duster in 1923; the aircraft was not accurate for the period, as the first commercial crop-dusting company did not begin operation until 1924, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not purchase its first cotton-dusting aircraft until April 16, 1926.[Note 1]
The inclusion of Affleck's character in the Eagle Squadron is another jarring aspect of the film, since active-duty U.S. airmen were prohibited from joining the squadron, though some American civilians did join the RAF.[Note 2] Yet another flaw: Ben Affleck's Spitfire has insignia "RF" – this is an insignia of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron. Countless other technical lapses rankled film critics, such as Bay's decision to paint the Japanese Zero fighters green (most of the aircraft in the attack being painted light gray/white), even though he knew that was historically inaccurate, because he liked the way the aircraft looked and because it would help audiences differentiate the "good guys from the bad guys".
The harshest criticism was aimed at instances in the film where actual historical events were altered for dramatic purposes. For example, Admiral Kimmel did not receive the report that an enemy midget submarine was being attacked until after the bombs began falling, and did not receive the first official notification of the attack until several hours after the attack ended.[Note 3]
Critics decried the use of fictional replacements for real people, declaring that Pearl Harbor was an "abuse of artistic license". The roles the two male leads have in the attack sequence are analogous to the real historical deeds of U.S. Army Air Forces Second Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, who took to the skies in P-40 Warhawk aircraft during the Japanese attack and, together, claimed six Japanese aircraft and a few probables. Taylor, who died in November 2006, called the film adaptation "a piece of trash... over-sensationalized and distorted".
A sequence is included of Japanese aircraft targeting medical staff and the base's hospital. Although it was damaged in the attack, the Japanese did not deliberately target the U.S. naval hospital and only a single member of its medical staff was killed as he crossed the navy yard to report for duty.
There are also some minor inaccuracies with the Doolittle Raid. Jimmy Doolittle and the rest of the Doolittle raiders had to launch from the USS Hornet 624 miles off the Japanese coast and after being spotted by a few Japanese patrol boats. In actuality, the Doolittle raiders had to launch 650 miles off the Japanese coast and after being spotted by only one Japanese patrol boat. In the film, all of the raiders are depicted as dropping their bombs on Tokyo. In actuality, the Doolittle raiders did bomb Tokyo, but also targeted three other industrial cities. Furthermore, as fighter pilots, Rafe and Danny would have been ineligible to fly B-25 Mitchell bombers without extensive retraining.
Numerous other inconsistencies and anachronisms are present in the film. A sailor has a pack of Marlboro Light cigarettes in his pocket, not introduced until 1972. In the beginning of the movie, a newsreel of 1940 is presented with combat footage in Europe, showing a M-26 Pershing tank fighting in the city of Cologne, which did not happen until March 1945. One of Doolittle's trophies in a display case depicts a model of an F-86 Sabre, which was not even on the drawing board in the 1940s.
The scene following the attack on Pearl Harbour, where the President demands an immediate retaliatory strike on the soil of Japan, did not happen as portrayed in the film. Admiral Chester Nimitz and General George Marshall are seen denying the possibility of an aerial attack on Japan, but in real life they actually advocated such a strike. Another inconsistency in this scene is when President Roosevelt (who was at this time in his life, stricken and bound to a wheelchair due to Polio) is able to stand up to challenge his Staff's distrust in a strike on Japan. This too, never happened in real life.
Honors and awards
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|Academy Award||Best Sound Editing||George Watters II and Christopher Boyes||Won|
|Best Sound||Greg P. Russell, Peter J. Devlin, and Kevin O'Connell||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Eric Brevig, John Frazier, Ben Snow, and Ed Hirsh||Nominated|
|Best Original Song||Diane Warren ("There You'll Be")||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Original Song||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Hans Zimmer||Nominated|
|MTV Movie Award||Best Action Sequence||Attack on Pearl Harbor||Won|
|Golden Raspberry Award||Worst Actor||Ben Affleck||Nominated|
|Worst Screen Couple||Nominated|
|Worst Screenplay||Randall Wallace||Nominated|
|Worst Picture||Jerry Bruckheimer||Nominated|
|Worst Remake or Sequel||Nominated|
|World Stunt Taurus Award||Best Aerial Work||Nominated|
In popular culture
The soundtrack for the 2004 film Team America: World Police contains a song entitled "End of an Act". The song's chorus recounts, "Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you" equating the singer's longing to how much "Michael Bay missed the mark when he made Pearl Harbor" which is "an awful lot, girl". The ballad contains other common criticisms of the film, concluding with the rhetorical question "Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?"
Home media 
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A Commemorative 60th Anniversary Edition was released on December 4, 2001. The feature was spread across two videotapes in letterbox format, and tape two also included Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor, a 50-minute documentary on little-known heroes of the attack, and a Faith Hill music video.
Around the same time, a two-disc DVD of the Commemorative 60th Anniversary Edition was released. This release included the first two hours of the feature on disc one, and on disc two, the last hour of the feature, Journey to the Screen, a 47-minute documentary on the monumental production of the film, Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor, the Faith Hill music video and theatrical trailers.
A Pearl Harbor DVD gift set that includes the Commemorative Edition two-disc set, National Geographic's "Beyond the Movie" feature and a dual-sided map was released concurrently on December 4, 2001.
A deluxe Vista Series edition of the film was released on July 2, 2002. It contained an R-rated director's cut of the film, with numerous commentaries from the cast and crew alongside a few "easter eggs". The director's cut included the reinsertion of graphic carnage during the central attack; small alterations and additions to existing scenes; Doolittle addressing the pilots before the raid; and the replacement of the campfire scene with a scene of Doolittle speaking personally to Rafe and Danny about the value of friendship. It runs at 184 minutes compared to the 183 minutes of the theatrical cut.
This elaborate package, which DVDtalk.com called "the most extensive set released comprising of [sic] only one film", includes four discs of film and bonus features, a replication of Roosevelt's speech, collectible promotional postcards and a carrying case that resembles a historic photo album. The bonus features include all the features included in the commemorative edition, plus additional footage. There are three audio commentaries: 1) Director and film historian, 2) Cast and 3) Crew. Other features include: "The Surprise Attack", a multi-angle breakdown of the film's most exciting sequence (30 minutes), which includes multiple video tracks (such as previsualization and final edit) and commentaries from veterans. Also included is the "Pearl Harbor Historic Timeline", a set-top interactive feature produced by documentarian Charles Kiselyak (68 minutes). The "Soldier's Boot Camp" follows the actors as they take preparation for their roles to an extreme (30 minutes)), "One Hour Over Tokyo" and "The Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor", two History Channel documentaries along with "Super-8 Montage", a collection of unseen Super-8 footage shot for potential use in the movie by Michael Bay's assistant, Mark Palansky; "Deconstructing Destruction", an in-depth conversation with Michael Bay and Eric Brevig (of Industrial Light and Magic) about the special effects in the movie and "Nurse Ruth Erickson interview" complete the extra features component.
On December 19, 2006, a 65th Anniversary Commemorative Edition high-definition Blu-ray Disc was released.
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|Pearl Harbor: Music From The Motion Picture|
|Soundtrack album by Hans Zimmer|
|Released||May 22, 2001|
|Hans Zimmer chronology|
The soundtrack to Pearl Harbor on Hollywood Records was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (lost to the score of Moulin Rouge!). The original score was composed by Hans Zimmer. The song "There You'll Be" was nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
- "There You'll Be" – song performed by Faith Hill
- Tennessee – 3:40
- Brothers – 4:04
- ...And Then I Kissed Him – 5:37
- I Will Come Back – 2:54
- Attack – 8:56
- December 7 – 5:08
- War – 5:15
- Heart of a Volunteer – 7:05
- Total Album Time
- The "mischievous" Stearman flight is also unlikely, not only because Stearman did not produce his first aircraft until 1926. Less believably, the aircraft's engine starts, not by having someone swing the propeller, but at the flick of a switch, which would have required the engine being fitted with an electric switch, a very unlikely occurrence.
- The later series cannon armed Spitfires used in the film were also inaccurate, as the RAF had chiefly machine gun-armed Spitfire Mk I/IIs during the Battle of Britain. Limited number of early cannon-armed Spitfires Mk.IB served for brief time with No. 19 Squadron RAF, but these proved to be too unreliable and were soon withdrawn from active service. They also differed slightly from later cannon-armed Spitfire versions, which posessed both autocannons and machine guns, as their armament consisted of single 20 mm British Hispano cannon in each wing only.
- President Roosevelt did not receive the news of the Pearl Harbor attack from an aide or advisor who ran into the room. Rather, he was having lunch with Harry Hopkins, a trusted friend, when he received a phone call from Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.
- No acknowledgement was given in the film to the fact that approximately 250,000 Chinese civilians were massacred by the Japanese Army in eastern China in retaliation for Chinese assistance of the attacking American aviators in participation of the Doolittle Raid.
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