Dauntless- The Battle Of Midway 2019 hollywood movies review

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Today (21 October 2019) is the release date for ‘Dauntless: The Battle of Midway’ on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital download/streaming, and as a rare example of a feature film about naval aviation, it warrants a review from Naval Air History. My thanks to The Warrior Agency for the review copy. Whether by coincidence or not, the release date is Trafalgar Day, which somewhat emphasises the link between the two battles (Midway is widely considered the ‘USN’s Trafalgar’, and Midway Day is celebrated in the US much as Trafalgar Day is in the UK).

The Battle of Midway has not appeared in film as often as it might, given the engagement’s significance to the US Navy and the entire American narrative of the Second World War. The only English Language feature film previously to cover the events of June 1942 was the 1976 all-star-cast affair which was something of a mixed success (and which will be the subject of a future article). Surprising, then, that two films set during the battle should arrive in the same year, especially when that year is not a major anniversary (77 years). Though the second of those, Roland Emmerich’s ‘Midway’, has not yet been released, it is probably fair to say that both the 2019 Midway films could not be more different.

While Emmerich’s film boasts a fair smattering of recognisable faces (and the 1976 film an ‘all star cast’), ‘Dauntless’ is a lower-budget affair with no big-name actors; the only two cast members with names prominent enough to put on the poster are former ‘Brat Pack’ members C Thomas Howell and Judd Nelson, in relatively minor parts as senior officers. Moreover, it seems that ‘Midway’ aims to follow its 1970s namesake by portraying the broad sweep of the action, while ‘Dauntless’ has a much narrower focus. The majority of the film is given over to SBD pilot Ensign Norman Vandivier (Jade Willey) and his inexperienced gunner Lee Keaney (John Enick).

This crew is one of those from USS Enterprise involved in one of the first, devastating strikes on the main Japanese carrier group, forced to ditch and drift in the water, hoping desperately for rescue. Providing a counterpoint to this very static part of the story is the crew of a PBY Catalina, ostensibly scouting for the fleet, but hoping to pick up ditched aviators if the opportunity allows. The captain of the flying boat, Lieutenant Bennett (Adam Peltier), an old friend of Vandivier is particularly motivated in this regard. Mercifully, the filmmakers avoided the silly and ahistorical ‘Strawberry’ callsign which the 1976 film applied to the PBY patrol boats and which many people now seem to think is fact…

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