Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘heroism

The Pacific

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Until more than three-quarters of the way through, I was so, so disappointed in “The Pacific”.  Of course, it had an awful lot to live up to.  “Band Of Brothers”, its forerunner, although produced as  a TV series, has to be one of the very best war movies of all time.  “The Pacific” doesn’t even come close.   That’s not to say that it isn’t excellent in its own right because it is but it isn’t in the same league, battalion or regiment as “Band Of Brothers”.

It’s a ten part series and until epsiode five I was bored.   That’s not just because there’s a lack of action – there is – but there’s also very little characterisation or story.  In “Band Of Brothers” you feel like you’re part of the platoon yourself. You grow to know and love each individual and you experience fear, grief, tension, terror alongside all of them.  It wasn’t until epsiode eight of “The Pacific” when Sergeant Basilone falls in love with Lena, marries her and is then shipped to Iwo Jima that I felt the same searing emotional intensity.  I remember when I first watched “Band Of Brothers”, each epsiode was like experiencing an intense personal tragedy.  I would feel drained, exhausted and traumatised.  It was almost too much but although it finishes well, “The Pacific” is not quite enough.  Perhaps the most moving scene of all is in epsiode nine when Eugene comforts a dying Japanese woman.  This is magnificent film making.

I think war is the ultimate movie genre.  It describes the human condition at the very edge. Like all men, I am fascinated with horror, doubt and uncertainty about how I would behave in combat.  I deplore violent films but when the story requires it, realism is essential.  A war movie should make you understand the reality in detail, explicitly and make you turn away from violence.

My old friend Bruce won an Emmy and a Golden Globe working as a producer on “Band Of Brothers” and I remember talking to him about the sound of gunfire.  He explained the effort involved in achieving a more realistic sound than ever before.  You can hear how in every movie thereafter it’s been picked up and enhanced.

“The Pacific” does take realism even further.  The spray of blood that bursts from a soldier’s body as he is hit, the red mist that appears around a group of soldiers as shrapnel lacerates them is horrifying.  The graphic dismemberment and vile, grotesque injury that nowadays we see soldiers survive is beyond words.  At times the cast is wading through a sea of body parts, of arms, legs, hands, feet.  I think we now accept the shocking reality of this because today we see the survivors of such injury. At last, in the battle for Iwo Jima, “The Pacific” begins to communicate the deeply distressing heroism, the humbling, horrifying courage that these young men, our forefathers, summoned up to free the world from tyranny and allow us to enjoy the freedom that we do today.

There is a real mistake in some of the earlier episodes when many of the scenes are just too dark.  There isn’t even the excuse of it being made for the big screen.  It’s just wrong.  Also some of the CGI, particularly in wide shots of amphibious landings for instance, doesn’t work.  It’s not as convincing as the more primitive, model based effects in “Band Of Brothers”

There is one part of “The Pacific” that deserves the very highest praise.  The titles are quite simply one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on television or at the cinema.  They consist of extreme close ups of an artist drawing battle scenes with charcoal.  As the charcoal disintegrates into dust and splinters on the page it mixes through to become the detritus of battle, the dirt, dust and shrapnel of combat.  The backgrounds merge with finely textured, laid paper, with live action, graphics and animation.  It really is quite breathtakingly, achingly beautiful.  All the more so so because its subject is precisely the opposite.  The wonderful, haunting theme music is the same as “Band Of Brothers”.  At least that’s the way I hear it.  If it isn’t then it’s been composed to be so similar that they might as well have stuck with the original.

All in all, I did, eventually, greatly enjoy “The Pacific”.  Most of all though it shows just how bloody marvellous  “Band Of Brothers” is.

Channel 4 – The Air Hospital

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This was magnificent television, enough surely to shock us all out of our complacency.  Watch it here.

It was the story of the courageous team that flies our badly injured heroes home from Afghanistan in a C17 aircraft, converted to one large intensive care unit.  Every second of this documentary is shot through with pain, heroism, trauma and the utter pointlessness of the war.

I am afraid that I don’t believe we will be any further on in Afghanistan in another year.  I don’t believe that having our troops there now is making our country safer.  I think it actually makes terrorist attacks more likely.

What this programme reminded me of most effectively is that every time we hear of another soldier who has lost his life, there are four or five others, horribly mutilated and facing a future which may well be worse than death.

It has been said a hundred times but we need to say it a hundred times more, every day.  This is an unwinnable war, a pointless war.

Bring our boys home now!

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 26, 2010 at 11:58 am