You know, I enjoy a good old American war film as much as the next guy, but Wake Island does a horrible service to the Alamo of the Pacific. Today, it just isn’t relevant. Between it’s style of comedy and chronic battle scenes it’s likely to just annoy a 21st century audience.
Here’s some plot (really, there’s not much in the whole film). Private Randal (William Bendix) is looking forward to returning to civilian life to get married, but as he’s getting ready to leave, Pearl Harbor is bombed and the soldiers on Wake Island must fight. Randal is already in his civilian clothes (complete with an elegant hat) and the soldiers make fun as he’s escorted to hide in a trench. After the bombing, he’s reluctant to leave his comrades, even puts up a fight to stay, but is ordered under the circumstances back into commission. It’s like he feels left out of the club, what a way to rally the troops.
I’ve got to say, the bombing scenes are done well. It’s so nice to see stuff actually blow up and have no CGI trying to look real. In the air, the dogfight scenes are dizzying. The camera swoops and loops following the planes. I imagine this was filmed on a plane and it’s refreshing.
But then, well the whole film turns into a battle scene. Whistle, boom, rat-a-tat-tat, cheap exchange between soldiers and more explosions. That’s the meat, piled on with no cheese. We pause for the soldiers to have a little fun with puppies and back to the explosions. I wish I could have make that up.
The people at Paramount started working on the film, before the battle at Wake Island was even over. I’m sure the theme was set even before the ill defeat: Rally the Troops! To an audience today (whether you support our troops or not) that message is way overdone. We get it. The main problem is that there’s no heart, the characters are cardboard and there’s nothing to think about. Just mindless explosions.
I don’t know why you’d want to watch this movie. Maybe if your grandfather was at Wake Island, but this might just enrage you wishing this battle was preserved with more respect. Sorry, but this is just a film made to rally your grandfather into the army. There’s no further appeal.