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"We happy few...we band of brothers..."
Oct 29, 2004 (Updated Oct 31, 2004)
Review by Alex Diaz-Granados
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Excellent scripts, great acting, and superb production values makes this WWII true-life drama worth owning.
Cons:It's expensive...and lacks English subtitles for the hearing impaired.
The Bottom Line: As a reader of Stephen Ambrose's books about the men who fought in World War II, I can attest to the authenticity of this superb, can't-be-missed HBO miniseries.
Recommend this product?
I wasn't able to watch Band of Brothers when it aired on HBO in 2001, so I bought the late Stephen E. Ambrose's book of the same name. It was the tie-in edition with the cover art taken from the miniseries; promotional materials and a new foreword by the author describing the genesis of the miniseries and his praise for executive producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Ambrose stated that their personal interest and attention to detail were impressive, for they wanted to make sure they got everything right.
I did ask one of my best friends if he could tape it for me; he has HBO and a whole batch of premium channels and he does record programs he can't watch while he's at work, but even though I had logged on to HBO.com and gotten the airing schedule for Band of Brothers, he kept forgetting to tape episodes, partly because he had other things on his mind, but mostly because he wasn't really interested in the miniseries.
I was finally able to borrow this 6-DVD set from a friend of mine who works on cruise ships, and I have found this to be not only a faithful adaptation of a very good non-fiction book about small unit warfare in the European Theater of Operations during the last 11 months of the war against Nazi Germany, but it's one of the most moving works made for television that I have ever watched.
Band of Brothers' 10 episodes follow the men and officers of Easy (E) Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from the unit's formation at Camp Toccoa, GA in 1942 to its deactivation in the summer of 1945. During that time, Easy endured many challenges and hardships, including training under a first commanding officer who was a martinet (Capt. Herbert Sobel, played by David Schwimmer), a baptism of fire in a night drop on Normandy, participation in the failed Operation Market Garden, and the harrowing stand of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
In addition to Schwimmer, who makes you forget his more famous role as Ross in NBC's "Friends" as the tyrannical Capt. Sobel, the cast includes Damian Lewis as Maj. Richard Winters, Donnie Wahlberg as 2nd Lt. C. Carwood Lipton, and Colin Hanks (Tom's son) as 2nd Lt. Henry Jones -- there are many, many more fine actors featured in the 10-hour running time of this marvelous miniseries. The directors, which included Phil Alden Robinson and Tom Hanks, got outstanding performances from them all.
The writing of each episode is also top-notch, capturing the spirit and the essential facts from Ambrose's book perfectly. Also worth mentioning are the amazing special effects and cinematography, and the late Michael Kamen (Die Hard) composed a hauntingly beautiful score that added emotional power to the stunning visuals of this monumental television miniseries.
Disc 6 features The Making of Band of Brothers in which we discover that most of the authentic-looking locations were shot in a single set in England and using the hi-tech magic of computer generated images (CGI.). There's also a witty and revealing look behind the scenes provided by actor Ron Livingston (Capt. Lewis Nixon) in a series of short featurettes titled, naturally enough, Ron Livingston's Video Diaries. Capping off Disc 6 is the long-form documentary "We Stand Alone Together."
I recommend Band of Brothers to anyone who wants to understand what the individual soldiers who fought in Europe during history's darkest period experienced when Easy Company was part of what the late historian Charles B. MacDonald once called the "mighty endeavor:" the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny.
Band of Brothers Episode List:
Part 1: Currahee! Written by Erik Jendresen and Tom Hanks; Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Part 2: Day of Days Written by John Orloff; Directed by Richard Loncraine
Part 3: Carentan Written by E. Max Frye; Directed by Mikael Salomon
Part 4: Replacements Written by Graham Yost and Bruce McKenna; Directed by David Nutter
Part 5: Crossroads Written by Erik Jendresen; Directed by Tom Hanks
Part 6: Bastogne Written by Bruce McKenna; Directed by David Leland
Part 7: The Breaking Point Written by Graham Yost; Directed by David Frankel
Part 8: The Last Patrol Written by Erik Bork and Bruce McKenna; Directed by Tony To
Part 9: Why We Fight Written by John Orloff; Directed by David Frankel
Part 10: Points Written by Erik Jendresen and Erik Bork; Directed by Mikael Salomon
Pros: Extras Band of Brothers is more than a run-of-the-mill miniseries or TV war movie. It's a once-in-a-blue-moon TV event that's worth watching at least once, even by young teenagers who are mature enough to watch the sometimes gory battle scenes. As such, it is not surprising that the DVDs are loaded with a division's worth of extras. Each of the discs' two episodes has an Episode Summary, scene selection, a list of the featured characters, a helpful glossary of World War II-era military jargon and acronyms, and a map that allows viewers to follow Easy Company's progress across northwest Europe. The only feature that's missing, extras-wise, is commentary by the producers, writers, or even the late Stephen E. Ambrose, but that's okay; not every DVD has audio commentaries, though I have become addicted to the feature.
Cons: Yes, I do have two gripes, price and the lack of English-language captions.
It's Pricey! Considering that the lowest price I've seen this in stores in Miami has been $109.00 at Wal-Mart, I think HBO Video, Play-Tone, and Dreamworks are pricing themselves a bit too high, even allowing for the high cost of producing the miniseries abroad and all that. The packaging itself is a bit much; the 6 DVDs come in delicate individual jewel boxes which fit into a metallic carrying case. Very nice for those folks who can afford it, but 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment packages its 24 episodes of 24 in a compact plastic-and-cardboard multi-disc box that folds out to reveal its six DVDs, and the price is certainly lower than $70. Even taking into account the myriad extra features in Band of Brothers, a more conventional DVD case would cut down on the packaging cost and would make the miniseries more affordable.
No English Language Captions. If you go to the Language Selections Options and click the Subtitles option with your DVD remote, you'll see it only has subtitles for Spanish-speaking viewers. That's fine if you are giving this set to your Spanish speaking abuelito who doesn't understand a word of English, but what about those of us who are hard-of-hearing or totally deaf? I'm one of the former, and while I can still hear, I have to set the TV's volume at decibel levels slightly higher than 38, and some of my DVDs are still barely audible! I like watching most of my movies with English subtitles in cases when it's late at night and I don't want to disturb the neighbors or my mom, but Band of Brothers doesn't give me even the option of closed captions. Either the DVDs lack closed captions or the code is unreadable by my Samsung DVD player or the TV, but the result is the same...and there is no way I'm going to watch 10 hours of English-language programming with Spanish subtitles.
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