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WE history buffs are grateful when Hollywood makes movies set in the past. We hope they’ll be decently entertaining, and pray they don’t contain massive, ridiculous inaccuracies or errors.

The good thing about “Pearl Harbor” – and it may be the only good thing you can say about the movie – is that it includes no elephantine Hollywood anachronisms that jerk you out of the story and spoil your enjoyment.

No one uses weapons or flies planes from a different era. There’s no invented massacre like the egregious church burning in “The Patriot” or appropriation of an another nation’s heroics as in “U-571”

Even more important it doesn’t peddle any of those JFK-style conspiracy theories about President Roosevelt or Winston Churchill deliberately making the U.S. vulnerable to attack in order get America into the war.

There really was a black sailor who grabbed a machine gun and fired on the Japanese torpedo bombers, though, in real life he didn’t get any kills, and unlike Cuba Gooding’s character, he would have known the Navy was a deeply racist, severely segregated institution before he joined.

Two American pilots really did get aloft and shoot down six or seven Japanese planes. Japanese aircraft were lost to small arms fire, and there really were men trapped in sunken ships who tapped on the hull for days until they died.

The haircuts and uniforms and music are all pretty accurate even if many of the scenes are shot like an ad for an insurance company.

Most of the mistakes that “Pearl Harbor” does make are either pretty minor or are necessary to serve the purposes of the ludicrous plot.

For instance, in real life, there were no fighter pilots in the B-25 bombers that took part in the heroic Doolittle raid on Tokyo .

Still, screenwriter Randall Wallace (whose “Braveheart” contained worse errors) wanted his two fighter heroes to fly against the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and on the raid, and just made it happen. Nor, for all its daring, was it a suicide mission – 71 out of 80 airmen returned. Actually, three aircrew were captured, tortured and murdered by the Japanese in an incident omitted by filmmakers.

It’s not easy to picture Franklin Delano Roosevelt using a word like “bulls – – -” in a Cabinet meeting, but in one absurd moment, the script has the paralyzed president actually standing up out of his wheelchair to pep up the Cabinet!

But there’s something that “Pearl Harbor” gets wrong that goes way beyond any such anachronism or technical inaccuracy. And that is its sheer cluelessness as to why the attack was so important. Everything that’s instructive or morally dramatic about Pearl Harbor is absent.

It was Pearl Harbor that destroyed American isolationism and reshaped Americans’ attitude to what was already a world war. It also produced a wave of anti-Japanese hatred: one that makes the film’s careful excision of any racial epithets so common at the time seem even more ridiculous and politically correct.

http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/harboring_history_6L49vqcUmMCO753M4KJIeJ

 

 

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One Response to “Harboring History – ‘Pearl Harbor’ (NY Post May 2001)”

  1. This is supposed to be a World War 2 based movie. Its the sort of movie anyone would expect to be an accurate enough dramatisation of events that actually happened.

    Instead what we get is an attempt to make another Titanic by including a love triangle that is dominant over the whole history aspect. It just doesn’t seem right.

    Being a historic epic, they could have cut down on the whole love story and focused more on what would have been relevant such as the Japanese preparation of the attack and the situation President Roosevelt was finding himself in. The sequence of the actual attack on Pearl Harbour was spectacular! Perhaps if they extended it and made it a more major part of the film it would have been more worthy. Another major flaw with this movie is that after the attack sequence the movie dragged on for another hour trying to give an epilogue which was totally irrelevant.

    I reckon if these were taken aboard, then Pearl Harbor would have been a much better movie and perhaps would not have flopped at the box office.

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