Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Pacific

Got this DVD set for the holidays and over the last few nights I've watched through it. I don't have HBO so I'd not seen any of it previously, but bought it based solely on it being produced by the same team who produced Band of Brothers. I really really liked Band of Brothers when it came out. My relationship with the Pacific however is not as good.

I should probably take this time to own up to the fact that I really just don't find the Pacific theatre of World War II to be that interesting from a purely historical perspective. And having said that, it isn't because the stories of the men and women, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Civilians, etc who were involved aren't intriguing or worthy of being remembered. It's simply because they were fighting over small, inhospitable specks of land surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean. They were strategically important, but not particularly historically important. This bias of course followed me into the film, just as it followed me into Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Windtalkers, The Thin Red Line, and basically every film I've ever watched about the Pacific War.

I can tell you Ira Hayes' name only because Johnny Cash wrote a song about him.

The Landscape can't make the story, the people have to make the story. And unfortunately if, as the saying goes, War is Hell, then I really don't know what to call the Pacific fighting.. since Hell really isn't strong enough. The Brutality and doggedness of the soldiers on both sides, disease, filth, reckless loss of life. Flamethrowers alone move it well beyond "Hell" being fitting. Some of the scenes in The Pacific were disturbing even, and rightly so. I can't begin to be conceited enough to think I have even an inkling of what it was really like. And to be truthful, I don't want to.

So, while the scenery didn't do anything for me, monotonous vistas of tropical paradises turned into blood soaked cinders of pain and misery.. The pacing of the episodes was good, it never became overbearing the way films such as Black Hawk Down do, where by the time your finished watching you feel worn out. As if you have been through an ordeal. None of the episodes felt that way, until they got to Okinawa, which made all of the horrific scenes from the previous 8 episodes pale in comparison, but it felt like what it was, the last gasp of the war, where the Japanese would rather be destroyed than surrender.

The actors in this film, they did a great job. They made you care, and filled you with revulsion. Often the same man fulfilling both roles. But even with this, even with these actors giving it such a tremendous effort, I still found myself not feeling the same thing for these men as I did for those of Easy Company. You saw easy company men looting Hitler's flatware. But you didn't see Easy Company men cutting the gold teeth out of still living German casualties.

Thats the big thing about this, is that war dosen't just rend bodies, but as one of the main man's father remarks, it rips out their souls. And thats why I'm so glad that at the end of the film, Episode 10, had an entire episode dealing with these men moving on from their ordeal, showing that they were still human, and Humane, and would slowly recover what they had lost.

I'm probably not giving this Miniseries justice in my review, just as the Miniseries dosen't give the actual events the gravitas they deserve.. but everything has its limits. And while I cannot rank it as highly as I do Band of Brothers, I still give it a solid 7 out of 10, based entirely on the strength of the actors.


Trey said...

I enjoyed the Pacific, though I haven't seen the entirety of Band of Brothers to compare the two.

Brian Murphy said...

For what it's worth your thoughts largely mirror my own. I liked The Pacific quite a bit (I maybe would rate it an 8 out of 10), but Band of Brothers was better.

I think part of my problem with The Pacific is that they kept shifting the perspective between the three main characters. Even though Band of Brothers featured more personalities, the focus was squarely on the one band, and by the end you were sad to see them go (I know I was choked up when they played that baseball game and one by one faded from view). I was never quite as emotionally invested in The Pacific, although there were numerous great individual scenes (esp. E.B. Sledge and his dad; the latter fully understood the horrors his son was about to face and why he broke down during the hunting trip).

My grandfather was a veteran of the Pacific theatre and it's to my eternal regret that he passed away while I was too young to talk to him about it. But I got a pretty good sense of how horrible it must have been watching The Pacific.