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Band of Brothers [Blu-ray]
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Band of Brothers
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.]]>
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 FetzerSee all Editorial Reviews
80-minute documentary: "We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company"
30-minute "Making of Band of Brothers" featurette
The premiere in Normandy
Blu-ray exclusive: Picture-in-picture commentary
Blu-ray exclusive: Interactive field guide
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In 2012, I took a filmmaking class with Mark Cowen, who directed the Emmy nominated, “We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company”.
During the class, he described to us what it was like interviewing the veterans of Easy Company. In order to get access to these men, he had to go through the “Biggest Brother”, Major Richard “Dick” Winters. Mark said that, even after so many years, Major Winters still commanded the respect of his troops and that they would do what he asked. Major Winters got on the phone and made some calls that went something like this, “This is Winters. I’m sending a man over to interview you. I want you to tell him everything he wants to know” or words to that effect. Mark said that this is the only way he could have gotten access to them and for them to tell their stories for these interviews.
Mark faced a difficult problem before any of the interviews started. How could he make them “open up” to his questions and speak freely about these often painful experiences and memories? He couldn’t just go in and say, “Can you tell me what you did during the war”. Knowing that these men wouldn’t want to talk about themselves he came up with an idea which worked very well. He started each interview by asking, “Who was your best friend during the war? What was he like?” That is how he got these brave men to speak freely and express themselves as openly as they did on camera.
Many of the men Mark interviewed had never told anyone about their combat experiences during the war, not even their families. While relating some of their stories, the brave veterans would sometimes break down and cry. Mark told us he often found himself crying along with them. During one of the interviews, an old veteran slowly came out and sat down. He started speaking about the war and his time with Easy Company. As the camera rolled and the interview progressed, Mark could hear this veteran’s family come up from behind to watch and listen to their loved one relate stories of bravery, of death, of friendship and of pain, which they had never heard. When he finished the interview, Mark turned to find not only the veteran’s family but also a lot of their neighbors standing there. Some were weeping quietly while others struggled to restrain from sobbing. Scenes like this became common during the interviews he did with these brave, old warriors.
I often think of what Mark Cowen told us that day about his interview for, “We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company”. I wanted to get together with him again to hear more about these interviews but sadly, he passed away shortly thereafter, on September 10, 2012.