Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘intense

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.

Walking The Dog 2

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In memory of a fallen comrade

Walking The Dog 2

Apart from herons and wealthy, attractive, single women (which seem to be virtually extinct), the main focus of our daily rambles is sticks.

Of course, sticks come in all shapes and sizes but Capone prefers something, shall we say, robust. I suppose the ideal is about four feet long and perhaps three inches thick but the crucial factor in stick style is the way it is carried. It must be held at one end, not in the middle. I think Capone believes this is more flamboyant in the same way the way that a quiff or fringe sweeps back or a fighter pilot’s scarf flies to one side. Of course, even the most perfectly fashioned stick is merely debris on the ground until I have thrown it. Then it becomes the most exciting, the most important thing in life and if it is thrown into the sea he would swim until he sank before giving up the chase.

At the weekend we tackled Thorney Island, all the way around – an eight mile walk in a force eight gale. Out along a one mile dyke, straight as an arrow, then pass through the MOD security gate keeping to the public footpath beyond. The oystercatchers are still here on Thorney although in much smaller numbers but another mile or so on and we put up a roe deer. In the open, not as you usually see them in woods. It ran and Capone ran too but made my heart burst with pride when he responded immediately to the signal, dropped and looked back at me. We watched it run two, three hundred yards inland and continued on our way.

As you approach the most southerly point on Thorney you see to your right the end of Hayling Island and to your left, East Head at the tip of West Wittering. Between is open ocean and a direct line to the Falklands. A couple of months ago when we first made this journey, I spotted an Army Land Rover ahead and we found two men laying the foundations for a bench in memory of a “fallen comrade”. Now, the bench is there. It’s not the usual railway sleeper design. It’s much more elegant and the inscription reads “In memory of Steve Jones, 264 (SAS) Signals Squadron & the crew of ‘Hilton 22’”.

These were our boys, shot down just north of Baghdad three years ago. If I had a son who died a hero in the service of his country, I could think of no more poignant and intense place to remember him amidst the wind, the sea, the sky and the solitude.

Capone and I duly honoured their memory and sat for a cigarette, he accorded the privilege of sitting beside me on the bench for such a special occasion. We remembered them, lachrymose old Welshman that I am.

Thorney turns much warmer and gentler as you move to the east side away from the wind. Nearly seventy years ago, other young heroes took off from here during the Battle of Britain. Now the RAF sailing club provides the local excitement and past Thornham marina and Emsworth harbour back to the mainland.

A pint of beer never tastes better than when you deserve it. So with aching legs and an exhausted dog we made a brief stop at the Bluebell Inn before home for sustenance and sleep.

In the back garden lies a pile of sticks, proudly retrieved, collected and preserved. Out there in the wind and the rain a pile of sticks fashioned into a bench remembers much more than another walk with the dog.

Peter Reynolds 02-04-08