Topics in History: History through Film

A Southport student review of the 2019 movie Midway

Topics is a course at Southport High School, taught by Kevin Sanders, which analyzes major events from United States and world history through Hollywood films that attempt to portray those events. Students investigate historical documents and other sources to determine if a film is historically accurate.

The goal is for students to develop deeper understandings of the historical discipline while generating questions about the way the world is around them, along with watching classical films that have graced American and international screens. This week, student Aidan Silnes reviews the film Midway.

By Aidan Silnes

Since the beginning of history, humanity has rarely ever seen peace. Mankind has been shaped by the many conflicts we’ve waged against ourselves throughout the past few millennia. While we rarely learn from these ruthless displays of bloodshed, we still often look up to the warriors of the past and praise them for their bravery in the face of certain doom. While many veterans make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, we do our very best at preserving their memory and memorializing them for generations to come. One way we do this is through film and I believe that Midway (2019) does an exceptional job at doing just that.

Midway doesn’t follow any particular character and instead shows the perspectives of multiple real people who were vital in turning the tides of the war. It is through this method that we’re able to view various historic events through new points of view. A large portion of the film dealt with American fighter pilots attempting to perform dive-bomb maneuvers with the goal of sinking Japanese aircraft carriers. The film chooses to show you these dangerous actions directly from the pilot’s perspective which only serves to make the scene even more chilling. A side-plot of the film involves the Americans attempting to solve encrypted Japanese codes.

The film does an excellent job at portraying the amount of stress that everyone involved surely felt knowing that deciphering a code could possibly be the difference between life and death or learning a crucial piece of intel that could be used against the Japanese. I really appreciate the amount of effort and detail that was carefully put in to capture the most historically accurate portrayal of such a vital moment of American history.

Not only does this film take care to include the perspectives of the brave Americans who fought to protect the United States but it also displays the viewpoints from the side of the opposition. Throughout the film, there are multiple scenes that show Japanese generals discussing their own battle plans. We get to see what it was like for the Japanese as they slowly begin to lose the advantage as America fights to avenge Pearl Harbor and fend off the Japanese invasion. It is very interesting to see the cocky generals begin to realize they’re no longer on the offensive and must now retreat if they are to continue fighting another day.

Overall I find Midway to be an incredible portrayal of the most important naval battle in American history. It stays very true to history and makes sure to pay respect to all those who were lost too soon to the horrors of war. It is a work of art that pays tribute to all the American and Japanese sailors who fought at Midway, and it encourages us to remember all those who’ve fought for us.

The sea remembers its own.