Newest Review: ... it is hugely engrossing, and the care that the audience feels for the men who risked their lives for all of us is enormous. One can only i... more
Ordinary men. Extraordinary times.
Band Of Brothers
Member Name: steerpyke
Band Of Brothers
Advantages: gritty, realistic and great casting
Disadvantages: not for the faint hearted
With the big names of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg driving the project there was a lot of expectation of this production and in spite of, or maybe because of, the decision to avoid A-list castings for the roles, “Band of Brothers” has become a benchmark for others to strive for. The advantage of this project over the film that spawned the idea was that as a mini series it had 600 minutes to tell its tale, allowing much more scope for character development and the ability to move at a more logical pace. Both the film and the mini- series had something in common, both were based on true accounts of personal experiences of warfare, but whereas the former was happy to play up to an image of martyrdom and honour, the mini-series had a simpler tale at its heart and was just about mere survival in the field, soldier tales of looking out for your buddies. The length of the project also meant that more than one story could be told. Each episode managed to focus in on a different persons experiences and the fact that there is no obvious lead character made this much more engaging that its feature length brethren.
The story follows a group of soldiers serving in the 506th regiment of the American 101st Airborne, more specifically those of the fifth or “easy” company from their basic training in the United States to their drop into Normandy ahead of the D-Day landings and finally to the Bavarian uplands where they toasted the end of the war with alcohol from Hitler’s personal drinks cabinet. The series success lies largely on two factors: the look of the cinematography and the casting. Using a washed out colour for a lot of the scenes, especially in northern Europe which is the setting for most of the story, the filmed image has the ability to be convincing that it is actually real footage being worked in, especially the action scenes which also incorporate hand held point of view style filming that makes you feel that you are travelling into battle with them. There is a gritty reality to the portrayal of battle also. Gone are the days when battle is filmed like a well choreographed dance with people spinning ludicrously from bullet wounds, here hit targets go down unceremoniously like a sack of coal which is somehow even more poignant and chilling. There is a real sense of fear as you hear the heavy breathing of the participants as they scramble behind shattered ruins with shrapnel, splinters and ricocheting bullets flying around there heads. The story moves through various key features of the Allied invasion and is brave enough to highlight the errors made by military policy and the cost in human lives as glider pilots and soldiers are lost due to poor strategy with no effect on the enemy or the war effort. From the drop into Normandy in the dark hours before the actually invasion to the failed operation of Market Garden, and from the German counter attack through the “Bulge” to the carnage around Bastogne the realities of war are laid open to the viewer and any image of the noble warrior fighting for a just cause are quickly replaced by that of people like you and I trying not to get them or their friends killed.
It is also brave in the way it deals with the less publicised acts that went on amongst the Allied troops. It is always said that history is written by the winner and until now film makers have been very selective as to the image they portray of the “good guys” here though the producers have not been afraid to cover the honest realities both good and bad of men in war. The revenge killings of guilty Nazi and Wehrmacht officers in response to the finding of labour camps, the killing of prisoners in cold blood, the wide scale looting and the drunk and the cowardly all have a place in such a tale. The final emotion left by this distinguished, serious work of cinema is a profound sadness at the death of so many American soldiers necessary to bring about the destruction of the enemy and the attendant destruction of Europe. What Hitler didn't finish, the Allied air forces and the looters did. In wiping out the learning and culture of a century, the Germans committed cultural and political suicide, and, as Sir John Keegan has said, "The stain of guilt certainly remains to this day."
As I said earlier the casting through up some inspired choices. If there is a main character it is that of Captain Richard Winters, played by Briton Damien Lewis, who turns in one of many fantastic performances which just adds to the feeling that you are not watching a bunch of actors but actually soldiers. Frank John Hughes plays the foul mouthed Sergeant William Guarnere, struggling to come to terms with the death of his brother at Monte Cassino, and Mathew Settle plays the fearless lieutenant Roland Spiers who has the fatalistic philosophy "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead." In fact there are very few actors in this sizable cast that don’t fit perfectly into the piece. Even David Schwimmer cast against type as a bullying officer at their training camp who causes a mini mutiny plays a blinder.
Its definitely an action packed story with much violence and should not be ventured into lightly. There are more explosions that any series or film I’ve seen and those explosions have a greater impact when they are raining down on people you care about, and that ultimately is what makes it work so well, for all their flaws and failings, you care about almost everyone on the screen, even those that you feel you shouldn’t, they are just ordinary people trying to survive in extreme circumstances. Think of this as “Saving Private Ryan” for adults.
Summary: a realistic portrayal of war experiences