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You Owe it to Yourself to Watch This Series!

Nov 25, 2002 (Updated Nov 26, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Beautiful, well acted, realistic.

Cons:None.

The Bottom Line: Do you know as much as you should about WWII? An engrossing history lesson awaits in "Band Of Brothers."


How much do you know about World War II? Who were the Allies? Who were we fighting, and where? Why were we fighting? You may not know the answer to all these questions, but you should. I suggest you watch Band of Brothers for a little history lesson.

This mini-series is based on the true story of Easy Company, an American Airborne Division in the thick of things in WWII Europe. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are responsible for this stunning series, based on Stephen Ambrose’s wonderful book, and the set is now available on DVD. Do yourself a favor and watch it, soon. The budget for this series was $120,000,000—and it shows! It is well shot, well scripted and perfectly acted. They used 700 authentic weapons, and according to etonline.com, “by the third episode of shooting, the special effects department had used more pyrotechnics than were used in the entire production of 'Saving Private Ryan.” That is amazing! The bottom line is that I cannot find fault in any aspect of this film series!

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The Story
As I mentioned earlier, the story follows Easy Company from their initial training and jump through the end of World War II. When you first watch the series, you may have some initial difficulty telling the soldiers apart, and remembering their names, but you’ll remember them quickly enough as the story progresses.

There is also a feature in the DVD set that will help you to remember, should you go for a few days without watching an episode. The story follows the boys through a variety of scenarios, from jumping, to trench warfare and the emotional struggle of a soldier in combat. The story is engaging, realistic and it is heartbreaking at times. It is also true, and you may well learn something about the Second World War you did not know before. There are 10 episodes all together, and go as follows. (I’m trying very hard to tell you a little about each episode without spoilers!)

DISC 1

Episode 1 ***Currahee***

In this first episode, we meet the men of Easy Company. They are led by all talk, no action Sobel (Schwimmer). Also present in this episode are Winters (Lewis) and Nixon (Livingston). In this episode, Easy Company proves that they are men of honor, courage and ethics. They also show that they have a strong sense of humour, a fierce sense of loyalty (when it is deserved), and a healthy dose of fear.
This episode takes the men into preparation to drop into Normandy. Yikes. There is a particular scene depicting aircraft at the end of this episode that is very, very well shot. Beautiful, really.

Episode 2 ***Day of Days***

In this episode, the men are ready to land in Normandy, but all does not go as planned. Many men are lost before they even hit the ground. Because of a massive land to air attack, then men are dropping in the wrong place, and chaos ensues. Easy Company is now in battle, and with his commanding officer MIA, Lt. Winters takes command of the men, and he does so quite impressively, considering he is without a weapon himself, having lost it in the jump. Things get bloody here, and when I say bloody, I mean it. The violence in this film is quite realistic- more so than you might like. Remember when you watch it that it isn’t only a movie, that this really happened, and not long ago.

DISC 2

Episode 3 ***Carentan***

In this episode, things get even more violent. The men of Easy Company attempt to take the town of Carentan, in France. It is a long, violent and difficult struggle. Winters further proves his leadership skills, some of the men are killed in battle. One man must face his paralyzing fear (this continues through a few episodes), and the men show their courageous rescue skills off. A nail biter!

Episode 4 ***Replacements***
In Episode 4, the men of Easy Company have a little well deserved break from the front line, and replacement troops are brought in. This episode deals with the manner in which replacement troops were viewed in WWII. Replacements were, for the most part, scorned. No one wanted to befriend them, because they were sure these green recruits would not make it through battle, and no one wanted to lose another friend. The replacements were also a painful reminder of the men who had been lost and needed replacing.

A final straw was the attitude these new arrivals had- they were often anxious to see some action—when those who had been fighting trench warfare on the front lines were certainly not looking forward to returning.

Also in this episode is the execution of Operation Market-Garden. If you know your WWII history, you know what to expect with this one. If you don’t, then watch the film, because I’m not going to tell you! It’s intense and definitely worth seeing- even if it is rather horrific.


DISC 3

Episode 5 ***Crossroads***

In this episode much of Market Garden is seen through flashbacks that Winters has while writing up his report. He has received a promotion, and would rather not be doing paper work. There is plenty of hard action in this episode, and a lesson on jumping the gun, so to speak. Also in this episode the loyalty the men feel for each other, as well as their survival skills, are clear.

Winters, during a much deserved and rather insisted weekend leave in Paris, begins to struggle with his feelings, experiencing flashbacks. Nixon is struggling with alcohol.

Episode 6 ***Bastonge***

This is without a doubt one of the heaviest episodes. In this episode, the men are in Bastogne- it is freezing, and they do not have enough artillery or warm clothing. The woods around them begin to explode with mortar fire, and unable to fight back as they would like, they must try to dig in and survive. This was part of the Battle of the Bulge.

In this episode, you learn a little more about the medics that were used at this time. Many of them had no medical training before the war. The most valuable supply that they had in the field was Morphine, which each soldier carried. If a soldier was administered Morphine, he was marked with an “M” often right on his forehead, and in his own blood. If transported, this “M” let the operating dr. know that the drug had been administered, so that he wouldn’t give them more, possibly killing them with an overdose.

The life of a WWII nurse is shown in this episode as well. Brutal in its honest portrayal of women who often had to simply hold the hand of a man who was fatally injured to calm him and keep him company while he died.

DISC 4

Episode 7 ***The Breaking Point***


In this episode, the characters are fleshed out more for you. Things that didn’t make too much sense before begin to come together, and the fate of more than one soldier is determined. More than one of the men are lost when they take heavy artillery. One of them has to come to grips with his mental state. Add to this the fact that Easy Company is being led by an incompetent leader and things are very interesting, indeed. This is one of the bloodier episodes.

Episode 8 ***The Last Patrol***
The characters are a focal point in this episode, as well. Winters receives yet another promotion (ladies, I love Winters, I really do!) Replacements are an issue once again, and Tom Hank’s son, Colin does a decent job in his guest appearance.

DISC 5

Episode 9 ***Why We Fight***


The most heartbreaking of the episodes, the men are reminded why they fight when they come upon a concentration camp. The camp has been abandoned by the B@stard Nazis, and the starving, beaten prisoners inside have been locked in and left behind. If you can watch this episode without crying, then you’re a hell of a lot tougher than I am. This episode is a painful, brutal reminder of why so many courageous allies were willing to risk, and in many cases, give their lives to defeat an evil the likes of which the world had never seen.

I am not going to tell you a thing about Episode 10, because I’d hate to accidentally slip in even a little spoiler.

*******************************************************
The Actors/Characters
There are no headlining names in this series, though you will probably recognize a few faces.

Richard "Dick" Winters played by British actor Damian Lewis His American accent fooled even Adam! He is wonderful, wonderful! I can’t say enough about the skill this man has, and I hope to see him in future films!

David Schwimmer plays a commander you’ll loathe, and does a commendable job in the part (surprising, really, since I’m not a Schwimmer fan, even though I like Friends).

Donnie Wahlberg brother of Marky-Mark and former New Kid on the Block plays one of the soldiers, and proved that he does have some marketable talent!

Ron Livingston plays Captain Nixon, who is dealing with an alcohol addiction. You’ll remember him from Swingers or Office Space!

Jimmy Fallon from SNL has a cameo appearance.

All of the actors in this film performed brilliantly. The possible exception is Schwimmer, I don’t know if I hate him because I am supposed to, or if I just hate him. I’m pretty sure it’s the former. I cannot give a single negative comment to any of the actors. The real men of Easy Company who are still living talk before each episode, and you can actually tell in many cases who is playing who (the names of the men aren’t given so you don’t know who lives or dies that way), it’s just so well acted you can figure it out! At least I could!

**********************************************************

Special Effects

The special effects for this series are special, indeed. One of the most notable effects are the wounds that the soldiers receive. They are extremely realistic, sometimes more realistic than I would like. Usually I won’t watch the really bloody bits, but I forced myself to in this series. I tried to remind myself that yes, this was a movie, but that it was a movie about real people, who suffered real, horrible fates in fighting for a just cause. So watch the difficult parts, and be grateful for the hundreds of thousands, (millions if you count those who suffered in camps) who died for this noble cause. What a sad, sad waste of life, and how terrifying that the views of a madman can influence so very many people.

Also notable are the bombs, airplanes, tank action and pyrotechnics. The villages look as they should, the people sound like they should, and the clothing was mostly vintage period clothing, so everything worked perfectly.

********************************************************

Direction

Kudos on the direction of this series. Many of the shots are shaky, shot as though you were looking through the eyes of someone fighting, and it seems so much more real and scary this way. The series is incredibly suspenseful. Whenever the men would relax (which didn’t happen often), I’d be on the edge of my seat, certain that things were too good just then, waiting for the mortar to drop.
Through the direction of this film you see the various aspects of the war, and what it meant to serve in a variety of ranks and positions. You also get a good idea of what it was like to be a citizen of the European towns, as a sympathizer or part of the resistance.

**************************************************

Music
The music is perfect for the film series, and was composed by the brilliant John Williams. Can’t say enough good things about the music for the series, it is somber, melodic and hauntingly beautiful. (A good thing, because the opening credits for each episode are long, so at least they are accompanied well).

***************************************************

The DVD
The set comes in a nice tin box, though I believe this is a collector’s edition, and may not be around forever. There are 5 discs with two episodes each, as well as an 80-minute documentary, "We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company."
There is also a Making of Band of Brothers show, which lasts about 30 minutes. The DVD has an interactive "Field Guide" featuring timelines, maps, soldier profiles and other information that is helpful if you’ve gone for more than a few days between episodes, and you can’t remember names, places, etc.

The DVDs are nicely packaged and pull out of the tin in an accordion-like manner, allowing for easy refolding into the tin.

******************************************************

Final Impressions
Do yourself a favor and rent this at the very least. In fact, I would suggest that you just go ahead out and buy the whole set, which will run you about $80, but it’s worth every penny. This was engrossing, challenging, beautifully shot and directed, impeccably acted, and it got you emotionally vested in the outcome. It is a long series, 10 hours or so, but the fact that it is broken down into 1 hour episodes makes it easy to watch over a week or two, at your own pace. This is the best war production I have ever seen. I liked it better than Saving Private Ryan.


Out of 5 stars, I give this series 6. Please, watch it soon!

Please note that I gave this film 5 stars for action, because it deserves it, but very little of the action in this film would be described as "fun."




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