Thursday, November 4, 2010

Film Yap: The Pacific

The Pacific is a difficult miniseries because of how determined it is to be authentic. 10 hours are devoted to following a series of men through the Pacific Theatre during World War II. It has been described as a “sequel” to Band of Brothers, the other WWII HBO miniseries that was created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. There is no direct relation between the plots of the two series but both of them use their impressive production values to create a horrifying past in order to properly examine the men who went through it.

In order for a war film to be successful it needs to go way beyond its fight sequences. Those scenes can only provide a visceral thrill up to a point. They can’t just be another crazy Die Hard scene because there is an ethical responsibility to treat these intense moments with respect, not exploitation. That’s why I always judge the war film by its moments between the battles and that is what really worked with The Pacific.

In this series, there are three central characters, which provides for a stronger focus. There is Eugene Sledge (Jurassic Park’s Joseph Mazzello), Robert Leckie (Rubicon’s James Badge Dale), and Jon Basilone (Jon Seda). These were real people and this is their story. They start out together but that doesn’t last too long.

Early on Basilone becomes a war hero at Guadalcanal and returns to the States to become a poster child while the other two stay in the Pacific Theatre jumping from island to island. His awkwardness has been seen in plenty of films, including Flags of Our Fathers. This miniseries isn’t here to reinvent the war genre, but to provide accuracy for these men. The reason this subplot works so well is because it provides a much needed escape from the battlefield and the writing never shortchanges anything.

Having 10 hours allows for the proper amount of time to tell the story. There is no rush to jump to every major battle. The series is ambitious by having long stretches of dialog that’s not about bullets or killing the Japanese. In fact, the series is bold enough to be romantic. There are not women in The Pacific, but there are plenty of memorable ones. There is Isabel Lucas playing Gwen, the woman who hurt Leckie more than any battlefield. Then there is the very intelligent Lena (Annie Parisse), who plays the woman who doesn’t fall for Basilone’s hero status.

Across the world, things are more shocking. Sledge is experiencing most of the story and fights as his friends and him experience something they never imagined. It’s the chaos and the tone that this may never end. Even when they “win” a battle there is no sense of victory or accomplishment. Men die or lose their morality.

HBO discs are never too big on bonus features, but there are some gems in this one. There is a great 20 minute “Making The Pacific” that shows some impressive footage and doesn’t rely on too many film clips. There is also a 10 minute “Anatomy of the Pacific War” which shows more of the tactical elements of the war. There are is also a set of profiles about the real soldiers and more historical context about what is happening.

This is a series that starts off slow, but becomes well worth it by the end. This is very powerful television.

Series: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 4 Yaps

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