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"Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan"

Every year there are a few movies that one could call event movies. They usually come out in the summer or late fall and usually go onto gross absurd amounts of money. These movies are usually highly anticipated by the public with advance trailers often coming out nearly a year before the main feature hits the screen. While I look forward to a lot of movies there are only a mere few that are truly fit the event movie scenario for me. In recent years, "Mission Impossible 2" and "Gladiator" come to mind as two of the major releases I've been genuinely excited for going as far as counting down the days until I can see them. However not since "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" have I looked forward to film as much as I did with Pearl Harbor. While event movies come along frequently it seems that every couple of years there's a movie that comes out that reminds me why I enjoy the movies so much. Although not perfect by any means "Pearl Harbor" is one of those movies.

Pearl Harbor: Collectors Edition
"Pearl Harbor" is the latest in a long line of films dealing with the events surrounding that fateful day in December 1941 when the war between Europe and Asia escalated into World War II. However, unlike Tora! Tora! Tora! which focused primarily on both sides of the attack from documentary/drama point of view, producer/director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have decided to take a different approach. Instead opting to set a love story against the backdrop of the attack.

As the film opens we are introduced to two young boys playing in an airplane in a shack somewhere in America. The boys are Rafe (Ben Affleck) who’s Dad is the pilot of a crop duster plane and Danny (Josh Hartnett) whose father is a veteran of a past war. When Rafe's dad returns from work the boys get in the plane and inadvertently start it, unsure what to do the manage to take off into the air. Upon landing Danny's dad played by Michael Bay regular William Fictner scolds his son and warns him to stay away from the older Rafe. Flash forward 10 years or so and the boys are training together to become US fighter pilots under the command of General James Doolittle (Alec Baldwin). It is clear that they possess special flying skills and when Rafe is called into Doolittle's office he finds out that he has been accepted into the British air force and should he still want to volunteer for this assignment he would ship out soon.

Meanwhile a couple weeks ago at a routine health screening Rafe met Nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale) who saved his wings by passing him on an eye exam. The two quickly became lovers and will meet again the next night as the boys go to the big city to dance with the nurses. When the boys arrive to meet the nurses in New York they quickly head to a swing club and begin to dance the night away. Meanwhile Rafe has other plans for Evelyn as he works up to breaking her heart. After a magical evening he finally tells her and she is upset, he then asks her not to come to the train station to see him off. He also asks Danny that if anything should happen to him that he tell Evelyn.

Now over in Europe, Rafe is shown to his new plane that is still covered in blood from the last pilot who was shot down and killed in action. When he is given his first combat assignment in the Battle for Britain he continues to show his immense talent in the air. Then something goes wrong and his plane falls to the water. Back in Hawaii, Danny pulls up to Evelyn's place to tell her the bad news that Rafe was killed in action. She can't believe it. She's lost her true love to a war he wasn't even a part of. 3 months pass before Danny and Evelyn will speak again. Once they begin speaking to each other again they begin to fall for one another. Danny is the old fashioned boy who won't sleep with a girl before they are married. Then one day while working Evelyn has sees Rafe in the doorway, she looks away thinking it must be in her head, but when she looks back it's really him. He immediately tries to rekindle their relationship but it's clear that Evelyn has found someone else. When Danny arrives to take Evelyn out, tension arises between the once close friends. Meanwhile over in Japan, Admiral Yamamoto has decided that their food supplies will run out within months and they can no longer wait for an end to the war. They must get the US involved, analysing US weaknesses they decide that a sudden surprise attack on Pearl Harbor is the most effective way to achieve this and bring the United States into the war.

Pearl Harbor: Collectors Edition
Early in the morning on December 7th 1941, the empire of Japan struck Pearl Harbor with deadly force while most of the population was sleeping. Killing and injuring many people and leaving the base of the Pacific operations nearly totalled. This however, is not the end of our story, but will serve as the end of the plot summary of the picture as the remainder should be left to be discovered on one's own.

Director Michael Bay has never been a favourite of the critics. While only having 3 films under his belt his films have gone on to gross over $900 million and he has a reputation for putting out the best popcorn summer blockbuster films. From "Bad Boys" to "The Rock" to "Armageddon" there is no doubting that Michael Bay knows how to do action and he doesn't fail to deliver here. Pearl Harbor features an amazing array of special effects. The attack on Pearl Harbor is the action centrepiece of this film and lasts approximately 45 minutes. There are planes firing, buildings blowing up, ships blowing up and the now infamous "bomb-cam" shot of a bomb being dropped from a plane and falling down and exploding. The action sequences never let up and the viewer feels as if he's smack in the middle of the attack. While Bay has become known for his action scenes he's never been really been known for his character driven scenes. This time around Bay tries to shift the focus away from the action and he manages to weave an effective yet not without it flaws love story between two fly boy friends and the nurse they both come to love.

The performances in Pearl Harbor are top notch as Michael Bay brings back some familiar faces and couples them with some new rising talent. Back in 1998, Bay took a chance on a newcomer by the name of Ben Affleck by giving him the role of AJ Maclean in "Armageddon". Now 3 years Affleck is one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Once again Affleck turns in an excellent performance as Rafe, the best pilot the US has. Ben Affleck has worked his way up from small parts in Kevin Smith's movies to super stardom and I can see why, He is one talented actor and doesn't disappoint here. Josh Hartnett who first starred in "The Faculty" is quickly becoming one of Hollywood's newest heartthrobs. He has proven since then that he's one talented actor with his supporting turn in "The Virgin Suicides". British actress and relative newcomer to big American films Kate Beckinsale has the grace and beauty of a 1940's screen goddess as the caring nurse Evelyn. Watch for big things from her in the future including the upcoming comedy Serendipity with John Cusack. A truly remarkable performance from a lovely young lady.

While there are only 3 major roles the many supporting roles are also filled with talent such as Cuba Gooding Jr. who plays the first black cook to win a medal of honour. Alec Baldwin is James Doolittle who leads a raid on Japan and seems genuine in his portrayal as a captain who’s given what appears to be a suicide mission. In smaller supporting roles Dan Akyrod takes a serious turn as a navy cryptographer who reads between the lines to figure out about the attack but is laughed at for his suggestions. John Voight who will next be seen as Angelina Jolie's father in Tomb Raider plays a polio stricken president FDR who is excellent in his small role as the commander who didn't want to go to war. The many fly boys provide many comedic moments as do the other nurses played by James King, Sara Rue (TV's Popular) and Jennifer Garner who was last seen in the dreadful Dude Where’s My Car? and currently stars in the ABC hit series "Alias".

When a movie of this nature comes out, the critics and historians will always try and rip it to shreds for being historically inaccurate. Is this movie historically inaccurate? Yes, it is but unlike Tora! Tora! Tora! it’s not trying to be 100% accurate. It's a fictional story with fictional characters told against a backdrop of an actual event that occurred in history. Is this a bad thing? I don't really think so, I don't go to the movies for a history lesson I go to be entertained. If I want to learn more about the attack at Pearl Harbor, I can turn to one of any number of documentaries or books that exist on the subject. Michael Bay took some creative and dramatic license in telling this tale. From all reported accounts the actual bombing occurred early in the morning of December 7th 1941 at around 7:55am whereas in PH, the bombing occurs probably sometime around 9 or 10.

The screenplay by “Braveheart” scribe Randall Wallace is not without it’s problems as it does contain some pretty bad dialogue. In fact in ways it’s hard to believe the same man wrote both films. The actor whose character suffers the most from this is Alec Baldwin’s James Doolittle a real person who would probably be upset to hear his good name ruined with corn ball lines like “Nothing is better then the heart of a volunteer”. There are some other cringe worthy lines that I remembered from the theatrical viewing that I said almost in unison with the characters but despite this I still like the overall story of the film.

Those who go into Pearl Harbor expecting a non-stop three-hour action fest will most likely be disappointed, but those who go in expecting to be entertained will not be disappointed.  It's not a perfect film but there really isn't such a thing in today's society. You can criticize and find fault with just about anything these days. Is it the best it possibly could be, I'd have to say No and even Michael Bay will be making changes to it for an upcoming directors cut DVD. In the end it's still a film I rather enjoyed. Movie critics would do best to take off their critic and go as a movie fan. Take this from someone whose a movie fan first and a critic second. It's far from perfect but Bay's Pearl Harbor captures the spirit of the time and brings a human side to this tragedy.

Pearl Harbor: Collectors Edition
Whether you love or hate the actual movie (storyline and plot) contained on these two discs you can't argue that the film was beautifully shot. Cinematographer John Schwartzman who has worked on Bay's two previous films gave this film a very elegant and timeless look to it, which is accurately recreated on this DVD set. Presented in a gorgeous 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer from Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures this is one of the best transfers I've had the pleasure of viewing both in recent memory and in the over two years I've been watching DVDs. A visually stunning film to begin with this transfer captures the different looks of the film with ease. Colours have a richness to them much like in a painting as the reds and blues literally burst off the screen. The beauty of Hawaii's exteriors look like they would if you were sitting right there in a hotel looking out the window. Flesh tones are as accurate as I've ever seen, and the smallest differences in skin tone between the actors is very noticeable. Black level is seamless and perfect as at no point during the films night sequences could I tell where the movie's image ended and the letterbox bars began. The print used here is spotless as not even the most minor speck or mark appeared. There is one thing holding this transfer back from perfection and that is an ever so slight amount of edge enhancement. One issue with the transfer that may trouble people is during the film's hospital sequences there has been a blurring effect to the shots and is done intentionally. It may look a little strange to those who haven't seen the film but I believe this technique was either a stylistic choice or done to avoid a receiving a higher rating from the MPAA as the scenes this is done to are of a somewhat unsettling nature.

It should be noted that this movie is spread over two discs with the approximately the first two hours on Disc 1 and the last hour on disc two. This was done to ensure the best image quality possible and while some people including myself will find it a bit annoying to flip discs in the middle of the movie the intermission is well placed. I'd rather have a top notch almost problem free transfer split over two discs then a less stunning transfer crammed onto one disc.  As such this is by far one of the best transfers I've seen recently and is as close to reference quality as you can get while still not quite hitting it. Nonetheless this disc shows off the quality level that DVD is capable of. A great job by Buena Vista.

Director Michael Bay's previous films have more then one thing in common but one given is they always feature stunning audio design and sound mixes. Those expecting that from this disc won't be disappointed as like "Armageddon" and "The Rock" before it, the "Pearl Harbor" mix is nothing short of spectacular. Presented in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1this is one mix that will either make or break your system.  In the quieter moments leading up to the attack the score and dialogue dominate the sounds cape with their crystal clear elements.  When the action starts to pick up things really start going all out with the surrounds kicking into full gear with bullets whizzing by, planes flying overhead and explosions going off all over the place. The film's ability to go from intense loud scenes to quieter more intimate settings isn't lost as the mix segues into these scenes perfectly. Dialogue is always clear and easily understood which to some people won't be a player plus as some of the dialogue is rather corny. Those expecting some room shaking bass will not be disappointed as the film does have a very active low frequent effects channel. This disc will take your sub woofer to the max in a way only a few other discs have. Hans Zimmers beautiful score sounds like the orchestra is right in front of you. My biggest concern going into this disc wasn't about the effects or dialogue presentation but was instead about the score. I'm not a classical music score fan by any means but the cue entitled "Tennessee" which is used throughout the film is a really strong theme and something I thought was a key aspect of the film.  As always both 5.1 mixes are good but once again the DTS mix pulls out in front of the crowd with it's expanded low end and richer fidelity. It's just a cleaner more defined sound. Those of you without DTS will still enjoy the Dolby Digital mix.

Also included in what's a first for a commercial DVD release is a Dolby Headphone track. Dolby Headphone technology let's the listener experience a surround sound mix with any pair of standard two channel stereo headphones. I was first introduced to this a couple months back when a friend dropped off some computer software that allowed me to play back DVDs and have the program decode the audio on the fly to create a surround mix I could listen to in my headphones. To me it seemed pretty gimmicky and I think that's how the general public will feel as well. After all the only uses I can see it having is for people with portable DVD players and those people who want to experience a full on loud mix of Pearl Harbor at hours when most of the world is sleeping. As a guy who stays up until all hours of night watching and reviewing discs, I often have to be selective in what I watch really late so that I don't wake up the other members of my family and while this could be handy for non reviewers this isn't something I'd use. I'd rather pick a different movie than compromise my review standards and listen to a disc through headphones or at a volume level less then my normal 'setting'. Still this is an optimised mix for headphone listening and as such is probably far better then something a computer would decode from a 5.1 source on the fly. It's just not something that I have a use for.

Pearl Harbor gives the audio experience you expect it to and then some. Although it's not quite as impressive as my favourite reference level soundtrack (U-571) it is still a mix worthy of reference audio status.

Pearl Harbor: Collectors Edition
When Pearl Harbor was announced for DVD there were three different editions mentioned on the press release the first two of which are similar in nature. This 60th Anniversary Edition (of the attack not the film) is a two disc special edition with a handful of bonus features. Pearl Harbor was one a big summer movie and as such anything less then a 2 disc set would seem disappointing because most major releases and even some minor ones have been getting the double disc treatment. Given the three-hour plus length of Pearl Harbor the decision to split amongst the two discs was made. Disc 1 is the beginning of the feature while disc two contains the last act of the film and the supplemental features. It's very possible that people will consider the number of extras a bit disappointing given the amount of content on fellow summer movies "Planet of the Apes" and "Moulin Rouge" but fans of this film need only wait until May 15th when a unprecedented 4 disc Vista Series release will come out with an all new directors cut of the film. So with the fact that a far superior version extras wise is coming inn mind let's see what this release has to offer.

Making up the core of the disc's supplemental material are two feature length documentaries. By documentary I mean something with a considerable length and of some substance. All to often these days feature films try to pass off promotional marketing tools as featurettes or documentaries and that's a trend that needs to stop. These "Behind the Scenes" type featurettes do little to actually show anything that happens behind the scene and tend to be made up mostly of back patting interviews with the cast and crew.

The first of the two documentaries is "The Making of Pearl Harbor". This is a 46 minute look at the filming of the movie and includes interviews with the film's stars Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale as well as producer/director Michael Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and a number of the survivors of the real life attack. The documentary does start out rather slowly and at the beginning does come off looking like a marketing tool for the film. Once it gets its bearings the documentary improves and shows some genuine making of footage. It covers all aspects of the production from location scouting, plane scouting, how the costumes and ships were assembled etc. There is interview footage with personnel from the US Navy talking about the unprecedented access Michael Bay had during filming. It also shows them filming some of the bigger effects sequences as well as talking about how digital and actual footage was intermixed to create a film the scope of which hasn't ever been created and seen.  For all the good aspects of this program there was also one bad one and that's the number of minutes of film footage used. The documentary does take advantage of using a lot of clips from the film both with dialogue and with narration over top of the shots. This took the viewer out of the technically astonishing behind the scenes look of recreating the attack and back into the fictionalised film. It's not a perfect documentary but it does do a good job of showing just what went into making this monumental film. Going in there was no doubt of the large scope of the film's production but even I was left amazed with how they did everything. I only wish that it could have gone into more detail something that will likely occur on the later directors cut release.

The second documentary is a look at the "Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor" and focuses more on the real life events that happened on that fateful December day in 1941. This 45-minute piece created by the History Channel does an excellent job of informing people of the facts and time line of December 7th 1941. Containing interviews with survivors, archived newsreel footage and interviews with historical analysts. This documentary had me close to tears as people with real experiences spoke of their accounts of the attack. In my review for New Line's Infinifilm release "Thirteen Days" I was impressed by a historical documentary entitled "The Roots of the Cuban Missile Crisis" which really gave insight into that event. The same can be said here for this piece. It's quality bonus material like these two documentaries that really take DVD to the next level.

Rounding out the disc we have the music video for the love theme from Pearl Harbor "There You'll Be" performed by Faith Hill and written by movie song goddess Diane Warren presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and DD 5.1. As well as the 1.85:1 flat versions of the teaser and theatrical trailers. In an odd move the teaser is in DD 5.1 while the trailer is only DD 2.0. I hope that the upcoming Vista Series release includes both trailers in DD 5.1, as the film's actual trailer was one of my favourites from the past year. Lastly we have some DVD-Rom features and a promo spot for National Geographic's Beyond the Movie special that comes with the Pearl Harbor Collectors edition box set. However while the collector’s edition includes this two disc set the National Geographic feature is apparently on VHS.

Although not the ground breaking special edition fans would have hoped for at least Buena Vista announced both discs at the same time allowing consumers to wait for a second edition if they so choose. Originally scheduled for January this upcoming three disc set has morphed into a four disc set and will contain audio commentaries, an entirely new R rated cut of the film as well an immense number of supplements. The theatrical cut of the film will not be available on that package so fans of that cut of the film will need to pick up both editions. The new cut is said to be more graphic and will have new scenes as well as replaced scenes throughout the film. To paraphrase director/producer Michael Bay the theatrical cut is a love story set against the backdrop of the war where the new cut will be more of guy-oriented male bonding film. I for one personally can't wait to see what's changed.

Pearl Harbor: Collectors Edition
When it all comes down to it your enjoyment of the film is really going to dictate if you'll want this disc in your collection. While the film is historically inaccurate I wasn't looking for an exact replication of the events that occurred. If that's what your looking for then there are far better programs dealing with that (in fact one is included as a supplement). Buena Vista does a near perfect job with the jaw dropping audio and video and a couple of good extras. Ultimately though it comes down to your thoughts on the film itself. For fans of this love story set in a time where America stepped up to say that they would not allow such a terrible act to go unpunished this is a great disc. In this post 9/11 world a day when American's once again stood up for the ideals of the American Society the message carried by this film is even more important. Bay's "Pearl Harbor" tells the story of "Pearl Harbor" through a group of innocent American's who fought for what they believed and for the over 2000 men and women who died that day this is a fitting tribute.