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Pearl Harbour at 20: Was it really as disastrous as reviews made out, or has it improved with age?

Michael Bay’s 2001 film was savaged by critics when it was released but it wasn’t without merits, writes Geoffrey Macnab

Friday 12 March 2021 01:07 GMT
Ben Affleck as Capt Rafe McCawley in Pearl Harbour
Ben Affleck as Capt Rafe McCawley in Pearl Harbour (Sky)

Is it time to cut Michael Bay some slack? To his many detractors, the American director is an abominable figure, a purveyor of macho, explosive and inane movies that are as noisy as they are incomprehensible. Reviewers, though, rarely give him an even break. 

Twenty years ago, when Bay’s three-hour Second World War epic Pearl Harbour (2001) was first released in cinemas, many critics agreed that this was among the very worst films they had seen.  

“Forty minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality … directed without grace, vision, or originality,” leading US critic Roger Ebert pronounced. 

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