The groundbreaking and highly acclaimed 2001 mini-series Band of Brothers portrayed an amazingly accurate dramatization of the European Theater of War during World War II. Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (and originated by their experiences making Saving Private Ryan, the series was critically acclaimed and highly regarded by a legion of viewers. Still, there was the feeling that only half the story had been told as the story focused exclusively on the US Army’s ordeal in Europe. Many wondered if we would see a similar portrayal of the Pacific Theater of War, arguably a more harrowing experience then what was fought against the German forces. Thankfully, HBO answered those questions earlier this year with the mini-series The Pacific, which now finds its way to DVD.
The Pacific has much in common with the earlier series in that the attention to detail and the intricate accuracy to the depiction of events is unparalleled. However, while Band of Brothers did show how the soldiers were affected as the war progressed, The Pacific takes that a little further. The narrative follows three Marines, Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie and John Basilone and we get to see each as they enlist, during the combat actions they participated in and what happens when they return home (at least two of them return post-war, while one gets some time home during the war). Not surprisingly, the mini-series draws most of its information from memoirs written by two of the three, namely Sledge’s With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Leckie’s Helmet for My Pillow and Red Blood, Black Sand,Chuck Tatum’s memoir which also includes information about Basilone. The result is a much more personal and internal story where we really get to see not only how the war affected these men, but really changed them from the young men they were to the soldiers they became.
Much like the events depicted show us everything that Leckie, Sledge and Basilone were capable of and how they rose above and beyond, so to do the ten episodes show us everything that their respective portrayers, James Badge Dale, Joseph Mazzello and Jon Seda are capable of and how their acting reach amazing heights. Seda is phenomenal and Dale made me a fan for life, but the truly outstanding performance, for me, is that of Mazzello. You may remember Mazzello as the semi-annoying Tim from Jurassic Park and dismissed him as an actor after that, but you will be floored by his interpretation of Corporal Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge. Sledge goes from wise-eyed innocent eager enlistee to haunted survivor of some of the most unimaginably horrific battlefields in human history and Mazzello makes you feel it every step of the way. Just so you know that this wasn’t a fluke, you can currently catch him in The Social Network where he continues to impress.
The ten episodes are spread out over five DVD discs, which means they are the best quality in terms of pictures and sound. The darks are rich and the colors (what there are of them) are muted only as originally filmed. In short, the video and audio are stunning. Rounding out the presentation is a sixth disc with some gripping special features. “Profiles of The Pacific” gives profiles of not only Basilone, Sledge and Leckie, but also Sidney Phillips, R. V. Burgin and Chuck Tatum. Through interviews with each man, plus their friends, family, historians and others they served with, each profile provides a fitting and emotional tribute to each of the six Marines. “Making The Pacific” is a necessary inside look into the making of this series that gives you an strong idea of how dedicated the cast and crew were to honoring these men and faithfully depicting the sacrifices they made for their country. Finally, “Anatomy of The Pacific War” gives historical insight into the events that lead to brutal battles that were fought by the US and Japan in the Pacific Theater.
I truly think that this mini-series and Band of Brothers should both be part of senior high school and college history curriculum. Not only are they both tremendous works of drama, but they are important historical documents. On a personal level, my grandfather fought in the Pacific Theater and it was something he would never talk about. After watching The Pacific, I can certainly understand why. This miniseries will make you pause and think after each episode, as well it should. I urge you pick up this set right away and spend some time with it and perhaps walk away from it affected for the better.
click below to order The Pacific on blu-ray or DVD and help support Pop Culture Zoo