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Wake Island

Released Aug 11, 1942 1h 27m War List
89% Tomatometer 9 Reviews 48% Audience Score 100+ Ratings
In the weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack, the Marines stationed on Wake Island have grown accustomed to a leisurely attitude. All that changes when newly appointed Maj. Geoffrey Caton (Brian Donlevy) arrives to whip the men into shape. The troops, including Pvt. Aloysius Randall (William Bendix) and Pvt. Joe Doyle (Robert Preston), resist the change -- until the Japanese strike. Hopelessly outnumbered, the men switch into gear to courageously keep the enemy at bay for as long as they can. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (9) Critics Reviews
Ian Kane Epoch Times It’s a gripping underdog tale that helped to bolster the Allied forces’ morale in one of the most important wars in our history—World War II. Rated: 4/5 Dec 31, 2023 Full Review Matt Brunson Film Frenzy Exciting and inspiring. Rated: 3/4 Aug 22, 2020 Full Review Elena de la Torre Cine-Mundial A document of absolute authenticity. [Full Review in Spanish] Sep 18, 2019 Full Review Tim Brayton Antagony & Ecstasy It's fairly exciting action cinema... [that] falls apart on the generally anemic, one-note characterisations and the lack of any particularly memorable performance. Rated: 6/10 Jun 12, 2014 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Though largely fictionalized, this is a moving report of the defense of the Pacific Island base, with strong emphasis on the heroic gallantry of three Manrines, played by Robert Preston, Brian Donlevy, and William Bendix. Rated: B+ Sep 20, 2006 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews Succeeds in its attempt to dramatize the war effort. Rated: B Apr 30, 2006 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (16) audience reviews
david l Wake Island is a typical US WWII propaganda picture that has a slapdash story, weak characterization and inferior direction. The movie looks good and its ending is admittedly quite effective, but it just remains an overly patriotic movie made just to promote the war effort and nothing more than that. It was nominated for four Oscars, but it had no business being nominated for either one of those four. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Jared D This fictionalized telling of the Battle of Wake Island should have stuck more closely with what actually happened and the actual people. The film is well-paced and has a great cast -- but it dissolves into a bunch of cliches by the midpoint. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 08/21/21 Full Review william d Acceptable WWII era war movie if you don't mind bad acting in your melodramas. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review steve d The lack of personalities of its characters hurts it. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member One of a slew of propaganda films to be released in 1942 this film serves more as an interesting historical document than a film to be enjoyed. It was honored by the Academy as most films that dealt with the subject of the war were in 1942 but it was beaten out by the more commercially appealing Mrs. Miniver (1942) and has largely been forgotten in the years since it's release. I watched the film in an attempt to watch all Best Picture nominees and I have to say that I feel I wasted my time in watching it as while it was only 89 minutes it didn't occupy that time with anything of real interest and I struggled to differentiate between the characters. The highly capable Major Geoffrey Caton, Brian Donlevy, is assigned to serve as commander of the Pearl Harbor naval base and has to leave behind his loving wife and daughter to do so. The young Shad McClosky, Albert Dekker, flies there with him and when they arrive Caton quickly comes into conflict with the bumbling Joe Doyle, Robert Preston, and Aloysius K. Randall, William Bendix, who like to carry out pranks and complain about their superiors. The Pearl Harbor attack occurs and quickly destroys their peaceful existence as they are all forced to go into battle and many of them crack under pressure. Despite agreements with Emperor Hirohito the Americans are betrayed and the morally correct American servicemen heroically fight back against the somewhat stereotyped Japanese fighters. The Americans are initially victorious in fighting back against a surprise attack but men lose significant loved ones as Bruce Cameron, MacDonald Carey, discovers that his wife was killed as a result of the attack. Sadly all of the men are killed by the Japanese and the audience is informed that they must continue supporting the war effort. It is fortunate that the film is so brief as at only 88 minutes it is hard to lose interest in the fairly thin plot of the film and the underdeveloped characters and instead focus on the glory of the loud explosions and impressively choreographed battle scenes. At times it felt like the weak forerunner to Twelve O'Clock High (1949), another film that I do not particularly like, as the shots of fighter pilots in their planes and the dialogue they shouted clearly influenced this later product. It is not Farrow's fault that he had to work with the limited technology of the day but I think that he could have tried harder to make his film different than others of it's type as this was a movie that was too similar to In Which We Serve (1942) and Flying Tigers (1942) to secure a place in the place of the minds of audience members. The acting was uniformly poor as even those who would go on to have major careers like Preston come across as amateurs and they each seem to be directed to play blandly heroic and likable men. This is what makes it difficult to care about them or even tell them apart as like a lot of later war movies including Black Hawk Down (2001) they all look the same, speak the same and sound the same. If the film had been making a statement on the fact that war causes men to become robotic figures who are all mirror images of one another as they slowly lose their individuality and freedom. No, it is not trying to make a deeper point about anything because what the screenwriters, Farrow and the actors are trying to do is produce a film that appeals to as broad an audience as possible and for families, the assumed target market of this film, it is inoffensive to see the same slightly cheeky boy populate the film without having to confront any new or negative emotions. For the time the battle sequences would have been impressive as the bombings and the men bee lining towards various shelters were shot simply and without artifice. It was hardly Saving Private Ryan (1998) but these scenes did rouse me from my slumber and draw me back into the film as it was technically proficient and able to encapsulate the thrill of war. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review Audience Member It was a bit propagandish with those "sneaky Japs" and talking about being leather necks doing great by their country at the end. However, if you read the real story on the island the Japanese were very brutal to them. Some of the other historical facts of this place are also not right. The beginning started off well and charmingly funny, but kinda got boring towards the second half. The characters were one-dimensional and the script n story corny. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/15/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Wake Island

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Movie Info

Synopsis In the weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack, the Marines stationed on Wake Island have grown accustomed to a leisurely attitude. All that changes when newly appointed Maj. Geoffrey Caton (Brian Donlevy) arrives to whip the men into shape. The troops, including Pvt. Aloysius Randall (William Bendix) and Pvt. Joe Doyle (Robert Preston), resist the change -- until the Japanese strike. Hopelessly outnumbered, the men switch into gear to courageously keep the enemy at bay for as long as they can.
Director
John Farrow
Producer
Joseph Sistrom
Screenwriter
W. R. Burnett, Frank Butler
Distributor
Paramount Pictures
Production Co
Paramount
Genre
War
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Aug 11, 1942, Original
Release Date (DVD)
May 25, 2004
Runtime
1h 27m