Honoring History With ‘Midway’

Director-producer Roland Emmerich is known for epic science-fiction battles between humans, aliens and monsters, but it was the film of an actual battle in World War II that he waited two decades to make.

While collaborating with Emmerich on another project, screenwriter Wes Tooke asked the director, “What’s the one that got away?”

Emmerich told him it was the story of the battle of Midway, the 1942 clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy that marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater. He’d tried to make it while at Sony 20 years earlier, but the budget and subject weren’t right for the studio. Thus, with Tooke as screenwriter, Emmerich got together a production team to film Midway, based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, telling the story of the leaders and sailors in the battle.

Midway is available on digital, DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

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“I wanted to make this movie for 20 years, and I’m glad I finally made it,” said Emmerich in the disc commentary.

“Roland insisted that we make every effort to make all aspects of the film as accurate as possible,” Tooke said. “Everything that happens onscreen, in terms of historical events, is factual and in chronological order. It begins in December 1941 with Pearl Harbor and ends in June with the Battle of Midway. It is the most dramatic six months in the history of warfare.”

The cast includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Darren Criss, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid and Woody Harrelson.

Quaid plays Admiral William “Bull” Halsey.

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“Midway is an amazing story, and it has never been told right,” he noted in the extras.

Harrelson is legendary Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who is given the position of Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, famously termed “the most difficult job in the world,” after the attack at Pearl Harbor.

“Everybody was very conscientious about trying to make it real, and I think they got it right,” said Harrelson in the extras.

One hard-to-believe fact about the Midway battle is the harrowing way the dive-bombers attacked the Japanese ships. It was one of the aspects of the battle that got Emmerich interested in telling the story. In the film, viewers travel along with the pilots as they plummet precipitously toward the target, drop the bomb and pull up at the last minute.

“I wanted to show how incredibly dangerous these dives were,” Emmerich said in the extras. “What these people did — they were pretty much missiles, what we do today with missiles. They were manned missiles, these planes. The later you deployed a bomb, the more chance you had to hit a target.”

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The authenticity didn’t stop there. Filmmakers were scrupulous in recreating the era and the weapons of World War II, building replicas of both the torpedo- and bomb-dropping planes, as well as other equipment right down to the screws, nuts and bolts that aren’t used anymore. They were also able to shoot at historic locations.

“When you’re looking at a building that has bullet holes on the side of it from the attack in 1941, you know, ‘OK, we’re going to tell this story as truthfully as we can,”’ said Wilson, in the extras.

Nick Jonas plays radioman Bruno Gaido in ‘Midway.’

Wilson plays Edwin Layton, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer, just one of the actual participants in the battle who are memorialized in the film. Nick Jonas, who was offered many parts, chose to play radioman Bruno Gaido, known for heroically shooting down a Japanese plane before it hit his carrier. He was later lost in the battle. “I wanted to do justice to Bruno because he was a real American hero,” he said. Skrein is Dick Best, the unsung hero pilot of Midway who destroys Japanese ships, but never flies again due to injury.

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Emmerich was also careful to acknowledge the bravery of the Japanese, casting several renowned Japanese actors.

“When you make a war movie and you show one side as the bad guys and the other side as the good guys, I think you don’t do war justice because I think you have to understand what was the Japanese side,” he said in the extras. “It enlightens people. It shows that they are also human. They’re also brave.”

The director hopes the film is able to stand as a testament to the Greatest Generation.

“I’m thrilled that we had the opportunity to tell this story because young people today don’t always know the stories about those who fought for their freedom,” Emmerich said. “I think that without the generation who fought in WWII, our world would be very different.”

4K ULTRA HD / BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
  • “Getting It Right: The Making of Midway” Featurette
  • “The Men of Midway” Featurette
  • “Roland Emmerich: Man on a Mission” Featurette
  • “Turning Point: The Legacy of Midway” Featurette
  • “Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code” Featurette
  • “We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember” Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
  • “Getting It Right: The Making of Midway” Featurette
  • “The Men of Midway” Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer

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