Midway explores the Pacific Theater in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, but it’s different from many American films about World War II in one important respect. The movie delves into both sides of the decisive naval battle, and it treats Japanese soldiers with respect as well as American ones. Darren Criss and Keean Johnson, who play Lieutenant Commander Lindsey and James Murray, spoke with Screen Rant about the lives of their characters and the many forms of courage showcased in the story.
First of all, guys, amazing job on this film. It was brilliant; visually stunning, too. It was everything that you can do in a World War II movie in this modern era of technology. But let’s start with Murray: I want to talk about how his relationship is with Best and how that evolved throughout the course the film.
Keean Johnson: Yeah. Murray is a young man – not specified age, but young. Probably too young to be out there serving. And he's with Dick Best, who's this kind of hothead that seems as though he doesn't really care about life or death.
So, you kind of have this juxtaposition of these two guys. One’s the big courage, has all this courage, and the other one is meek and almost not sure whether he wants to be there. I think that there is a lot of fun moments and interesting moments to play of a soldier who's really scared – and playing on the reality of what I'm sure a lot of young men were going through during that time.
And Lindsey, I like to think that he's a smarter version of Best in a way. He's more logical in his way of thinking. Can you talk to me about the rivalry between Best and Lindsay?
Darren Criss: Well, the thing that I like about this film is how courage and heroism is displayed in many different manners. There's no right or correct way to be your own hero and service the things that you believe in the best. War is absolute chaos. And so, in the case of Keean's character, just rising to the occasion; that's its own courage. Even though there's a danger in the lack of his own caring about his immortality, Dick Best, that is its own courage to inspire other people.
And so, I think, Lieutenant Commander Lindsey’s courage is kind of sticking to the book and being logical about these things. How many lives can we save? How can we be most effective in the tried and true way of things? How can that help people? Which is sort of dimensionally opposed to how Dick Best acts, at least in the context of this story.
But those are two very courageous and heroic ways of thinking that might come to blows, and I think it's nice that throughout the course of the film they kind of recognize that in each other. At the end of the day, they're both there for the same reason and they just have different methods of accomplishing it.
We've seen World War II films throughout history. Why is it important for the contemporary modern-day society to see films that are historically based on things from our past?
Darren Criss: Well, this is a World War II movie and it specifically focuses on the Pacific Theater, in particular the American and Japanese front. But make no mistake, this is world history. This is a world story. If the Battle of Midway had gone differently, the entire Northwest if not the West Coast of the United States would be speaking a different language. The world would be a very alternate place, and that would have affected the rest of the world.
So, when you have war stories, they’re international tales. Because, you know, courage really has no nationality. Overcoming odds is a universal tale. When we watch Greek tragedies or Shakespearean plays, the plights of the Romans and people around the world, we don't go, “Oh, well, I'm not Roman. I don't understand what that is.” We know what it's like to be up against something and what it is to root for people that are subscribing themselves to things that are bigger than themselves.
Keean Johnson: And it's also great to play both sides of the story. Many years ago, it probably would have been a little bit more biased. And I think that it was incredible to have both sides to show. Honestly, some of the most emotional moments were with the Japanese crew.
Darren Criss: I completely agree.
Keean Johnson: The sacrifice, that is true courage that is built into them over the years because of their culture. How they're willing to sacrifice, even after they've lost, sacrifice themselves for a point. For that sense of honor.
Darren Criss: It's a very moving thing. And I like how you show two sides that are equally brilliant and doing their best given crazy circumstances. What does that say about, not necessarily a country, but a human being? I think it speaks very well of both.
Well, you guys did a great job. I can't wait for everyone to see this movie. And great point about seeing both sides; this is a smart way of doing that.
Darren Criss: It's very respectful and inspiring.
- Midway (2019) release date: Nov 08, 2019