Friday, December 31, 2010

The Pacific

TV miniseries for HBO, 2010 (9.0*)
Directors: Tim Van Patten, Carl Franklin, Jeremy Podeswa, David Nutter, Tony To, Graham Yost

[Happy New Year! I felt this to be a fitting tribute to 2010 overall as this series is from this year]

A worthy successor to the Spielberg-Hanks produced Band of Brothers (2001), which was perhaps the finest series ever filmed, and which would be ranked #1 at Internet Movie Database if included in their top 250 film list. Rated 9.6, it would be well above #1 film The Shawshank Redemption at 9.2, and #2 The Godfather at 9.1. The Pacific is rated 8.4 with only 13k votes so far, which would definitely place it in the IMDB 250 with a rank around 150.

While Band followed one company from training for D-day until the end of the war in Europe, The Pacific is based on the memoirs of two different privates in to units, named Leckie and Sledge. As a result, the story is not as cohesive nor as gripping as Band of Brothers, but viewers certainly get a feel for the hellish nature of the island-hopping, shifting frontline of the war against Japan from the marine point of view.

Much of the action takes place on Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and Okinawa. Once again, various directors filmed the different one-hour parts, so there's a bit of inconsistency of style. Also, the story shifts from the island fighting to the civilian stories in Australia and the U.S. which lessens the intensity. Another plus for Band of Brothers is that the survivors of the fighting were for the most part still alive for interviews that added both veracity and insight to that series. Unfortunately, in this case the principals had all passed earlier than filming; ironically both Sledge and Leckie died in 2001 (when Band was released), but each did complete books that chronicled their experience, all available now from the HBO site (see below).

Although overall the acting is not as good as Band, the unknown lead actors James Badge Dale (Pfc. Leckie), Jon Seda (Sgt. Basilone), and especially Joe Mazzello (Pfc. Sledge) are certainly all believable as soldiers. William Sadler (as famed "Chesty" Puller) and Gary Sweet (as Sgt. "Gunny" Haney) are terrific as older veterans. Gunny was my favorite character, the wiley older vet who has survived because of his skills, and the type of soldier that keeps others alive.

My favorite episode was part five, called "Peleliu Landing" on the dvd (when shown, none was titled other than "Part x"), which was filmed by black director Carl Franklin. That begins inside a landing craft of marines about to go ashore in a harrowing sequence that recalls the beginning of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Another harrowing part is nine, following the marines for months in Okinawa, directed by Tim Van Patten. Each of these episodes were singled out for Emmy nominations. Van Patten, Podeswa, and Nutter received directing nominations, but none won.

The intensity and impact of the series is also lessened by intervals away from the war, such as r and r in Australia and the searching for romance there, and following Medal of Honor winner Joe Basilone back in the states on a tour to promote war bonds and stamps. However, the overall series is an important contribution to the library of great war films, and valuable homage to the price paid by these soldiers, and is a must-see for all fans of history and war.

Winner of 8 Emmy awards out of 24 nominations. It's also up for a Golden Globe, yet to be awarded.

The home page for the series at HBO


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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