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The real heroes are still over there......
on February 9, 2003
That modesty and that sentiment seems to be shared by all the survivors of Easy Company, 506th PRI, and many of them can't hold back the tears as they mumble it. One of the great benefits of this marvelous series was the closeup interviews of the real men portrayed, those wonderful old seamed faces, breaking at last with emotion as they recall their experiences and the love of their comrades and the pain of loss of other friends. It moves me greatly, and I'm glad the Extras in this set has an extended documentary re-tracing the time-frame of the film with these real veterans recalling the action we've seen re-created.
Brought with loving care and fanatic attention to detail by producers Steven Spielberg & Tom Hanks and their carefully chosen band of producers, directors and actors, this is an unsentimental, near-documentary telling of the story of Easy Co. from training to D-Day, Hedge Row fighting, Operation Market Garden, Bastogne, into Germany, liberation of Death Camps, and the capture of Berchesgarden & Hitler's Eagle's Nest.
Throughout it all, the aim has been to tell it straight and get it right. They have done so in remarkable style. The truth HAS enough drama, and the various episodes reveal it. We get to know these men and care about them. We marvel at their endurance and the way they go about getting the job done, professionally, and with matter-of-fact, everyday courage. It is a true tribute to the Citizen Soldiers who won the war.
With 10 episodes and lots of extra goodies, presented within an exceptional package, there is just too much to review here. Some memorable moments: the harrowing jump into the explosive, tracer-lit night skies of Normandy; the assault on the 88's; Winter's killing the young German; the episode dedictated to the Medic; the monstrous artillery barrage on the men in the snowy forest of Bastogne; the shock of the farmer's wife on seeing the closeup hand-to-hand killing of the German by "Bull"; and finally, the incredibly moving scenes of the liberation of the Concentration Camp, and the final days of Easy at the War's end.
These last episodes are all the more powerful because we have followed Easy Co. and these men and have seen the death so random and arbitrary around and among them that a slow emotional tension has been built that we now realize with the intensity of anger/pity/horror at the Camps and the bittersweet joy and subsequent farewell of VE day.
I could cite great moments by each individual actor, and nicely played and effectively understated but powerfully emotional scenes but suffice it to say this is an ensemble piece with superb performances throughout. The quiet power of the different episodes underscores how wonderfully written the entire piece is, and with corresponding excellent direction and production values.
A one-of-a-kind production, having the time to tell the tale with detail and care, and with all involved doing honor to the men who lived it. And finally, there are those men, bringing it all back to the reality of real lives lived. Exceptional stuff.