Based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, the epic 10-part miniseries Band of Brothers tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers' journals and letters, Band of Brothers chronicles the experiences of these men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. They were an elete rifle company parachuting into France early on D-Day morning, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. They were also a unit that suffered 150 percent casualties, and whose lives became legend.
The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that delivers a realistic portrait of WWII's Pacific Theatre as seen through the intertwined odysseys of three U.S. Marines - Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain firests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day. The viewer will be immersed in combat through the intimate perspective of this diverse, relatable group of men pushed to the limit in battle both physically and psychologically against a relentless enemy unlike any encountered before.
He Has Seen War- is an exclusive documentary that examines the postwar lives of veterans of both Band of Brothers and The Pacific. From their initial steps at reintegrating into civilian life to the lasting impact the war had on each of their lives, He Has Seen War features Easy Company and 1st Marine Division veterans and their families relaying their own unique stories. Complemented by renowned historian and author Donald L. Miller as well as rarely seen archival and documentary footage, He Has Seen War captures the struggle and ultimate triumph of a generation who, after helping rescue the world from unprecedented calamity, reclaimed their lives and re-forged a country.
An impressively rigorous, unsentimental, and harrowing look at combat during World War II, Band of Brothers follows a company of airborne infantry--Easy Company--from boot camp through the end of the war. The brutality of training takes the audience by increments to the even greater brutality of the war; Easy Company took part in some of the most difficult battles, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the failed invasion of Holland, and the Battle of the Bulge, as well as the liberation of a concentration camp and the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest. But what makes these episodes work is not their historical sweep but their emphasis on riveting details (such as the rattle of a plane as the paratroopers wait to leap, or a flower in the buttonhole of a German soldier) and procedures (from military tactics to the workings of bureaucratic hierarchies). The scope of this miniseries (10 episodes, plus an actual documentary filled with interviews with surviving veterans) allows not only a thoroughness impossible in a two-hour movie, but also captures the wide range of responses to the stress and trauma of war--fear, cynicism, cruelty, compassion, and all-encompassing confusion. The result is a realism that makes both simplistic judgments and jingoistic enthusiasm impossible; the things these soldiers had to do are both terrible and understandable, and the psychological price they paid is made clear. The writing, directing, and acting are superb throughout. The cast is largely unknown, emphasizing the team of actors as a whole unit, much like the regiment; Damian Lewis and Ron Livingston play the central roles of two officers with grit and intelligence. Band of Brothers turns a vast historical event into a series of potent personal experiences; it's a deeply engrossing and affecting accomplishment. --Bret Fetzer
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have long since shown that they can spin a good World War II yarn. But while their previous collaborations (Saving Private Ryan, which they starred in and directed, respectively, and Band of Brothers, for which they were part of the producing team) were set in Europe, The Pacific is their first look at the conflict with the Japanese on the other side of the world--and the two executive producers, along with an outstanding cast, an able crew, and a slew of top-notch writers and directors, have done a superb job. In making a 10-episode HBO miniseries (on five discs, with a sixth containing bonus material) that combines real events and participants with other dramatic elements newly created for the project, the filmmakers took a personal, experiential approach, focusing in particular on three marines, all of them real individuals: Robert Leckie (played by James Badge Dale), an aspiring writer who sees his first action at Guadalcanal, falls in love while on leave in Australia, and later suffers serious war wounds; John Balisone (Jon Seda), who performs heroically at Guadalcanal, earns a Medal of Honor, and is then sent home to help sell war bonds, only to return to action at Iwo Jima; and Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello), who enlists later than the others, but not too late to witness and take part in some unimaginable horrors (books written by Sledge and Leckie about their experiences were used as source material for the miniseries). Of course, no one who's never been in combat can understand what it's really like, but through these three, and other men as well, we get some idea of the debilitating effects of war, both physical and psychological, and how those who managed to survive it might cope. As Leckie would write, "There are things men can do to one another that are sobering to the soul. It is one thing to reconcile these things with God, but another to square them with yourself." A number of episodes depict the characters at home, on leave, or otherwise away from the field of battle, but the greatest impact comes from the extraordinarily powerful fighting scenes in which the marines--exhausted, half-starving, riddled with malaria, and enduring the appalling conditions (from extreme heat to relentless, torrential downpours) of an impenetrable, unforgiving jungle--battle an implacable, fanatical foe who would much rather die than surrender or be taken prisoner. A sequence in Part Five, when we're with Sledge as he lands at Peleliu for his first real action, is especially gripping; battles at night and in the rain at Cape Gloucester in Part Four, on Iwo Jima in Part Eight, and on Okinawa in Part Nine are also wrenching, but really, all the fighting sequences manage to convey the sheer, visceral terror the men experienced. To the filmmakers' credit, a number of real WWII veterans are on hand to share their memories, both in a 49-minute featurette on disc 6 and during the short introductions to each episode narrated by Hanks. Other extras include a 22-minute "making of" piece and a brief but interesting description of the cultural differences that made the conflict between the Japanese and the Americans even more brutal than it might have been. The menus are easily navigable, offering a synopsis of each episode. --Sam Graham