Review: Band of Brothers

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This review steps off the beaten track by reviewing Band of Brothers, a 10-episode, 9½-hour mini-series on the experiences of “Easy Company” of the 2nd Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR).

What makes this epic worthwhile is that it is literally “the next worst thing to actually being there.” It is a vivid depiction of combat and how men act in battle – warts and all. It is especially relevant today for young officers and their instructors, most whom have never been in actual combat and should lead to many hours of fruitful discussion on conduct in the face of the enemy, training standards, and discipline and battle ethics. It should also give soldiers a pretty real idea of what it is like to be under the fire of a determined enemy.

The series, based on the best-selling Stephen Ambrose book of the same name, follows the men from initial training at Camp Toccoa to England, out the door of a C47 over Normandy and through the bocage to Carentan. After a brief stay in England we watch them descend on Eindhoven, in the Netherlands as part of the ill-advised Operation Market Garden and see them reach breaking point in the frozen hell of the woods around Bastogne during the German Ardennes offensive over Christmas 1944. The series ends with the division liberating a concentration camp, taking the Nazi hideout at Berchtesgaden and moving on to occupation duty in Austria. Each episode comes with a preface – actual members of Easy Company being interviewed on camera about the events portrayed. They are all identified at the end of the final episode.

The series, much like Spielberg`s highly recommendable Saving Private Ryan, is gratifyingly accurate in detail. Gratifying in that the accuracy does not distract attention is in so many previous attempts to film war, an example being the Germans using American post-war M48 tanks in the 1960/70s movie Battle of the Bulge. Uniforms and equipment – US, British and German – look (and in many cases, are) real. Weapon effects are realistic and horrifying. One critic remarked that even the jokes are contemporary. The actors also paid attention in weapons class, run by Dale Dye, a retired US Marine Corps captain who served as military-correctness consultant and played Colonel Robert F. Sink, the 506ths commanding officer to boot. Dye was also the military expert for the fictional Saving Private Ryan and Oliver Stone`s Platoon, the latter a recommendable film about the US war in Vietnam. He reportedly put actors in all three the movies through an accelerated basic training course, lasting two weeks in the case of this mini-series.     

HBO (Home Box Office)

www.hbo.com/band  



Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks