War films create a mix of emotions as they show heroism, the epic, unending battles, heartbreak and loss, friendship, victory and triumph of good over evil. So a ten hour series of all that makes for incredible watching.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank’s 10 part drama Band of Brothers, based on the book by Steven. E Ambrose depicts the history of ‘Easy’ Company, which was part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from their training in America, through major action on the front line, to capturing Hitler’s Eagles Nest.
The events in the book are based on real events, drawn from Ambrose’s research and interviews with the veterans of Easy. In many ways it is familiar – we all know the history of World War II and those terrible six years from other films, books and word of mouth stories. But Band of Brothers is something extra special.
The title is taken from Shakespeare’s’ St Crispin’s Day Speech in Henry V: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” And the name has so much meaning to the soldiers who were part of Easy Company. They landed on D-Day, they were constantly at the front line, made it through the Battle at Arnhem, Battle of the Bulge, liberated concentration camps and captures Hitler’s mountain eyrie.
The series makes its way through the war, each episode portraying an important part of the war, and focusing on different characters each time, giving us a story of the whole company, not just the privates views or the captains. Though to keep everything cohesive, Dick Winters (Damien Lewis) is the most central character, who is the commander of Easy, and the man the soldiers look up to most. He is a great leader for these men, and also their brother.
The large ensemble cast features some well known faces like Michael Cudlitz (Denver ‘Bull Randleman), Dexter Fletcher (Johnny Martin), Donnie Wahlberg (Carwood Lipton), Matthew Settle (Ronald Spiers), David Schwimmer (Herbert Sobel) and Michael Fassbender (Burton “Pat” Christenson). As someone who likes to know who is who when I watch something it was hard to keep track, but there was no need to introduce these characters separately. As the series progressed you discover their character, but in the end, they work as a unit, a team. It was easy to tell that even the actors had formed some kind of brotherhood for the show, and that made it all the more real.
Released all the way back in 2001, there was a couple of years production that went into making this show. Not only did they have a perfect cast, they also went above and beyond of special effects.
As you can’t look away, the shelling, bombing and gunfire happening on screen feels like you could be there with them. Sequences were cleverly shot, like Winters jumping out the plane on D-Day, the camera stays on him the whole time and the background is full of other paratroopers making that jump – which only lasted 8 seconds. Then later in the Battle of the Bulge, the constant shelling with trees been blown up, the ground shaking, and dirt everywhere just looks amazing. And absolutely terrifying.
As we know what happens at the end – the Allies won! – then it is important to have a sense of realism. The events on screen DID happen, which at times is beyond comprehension, and Spielberg and Hanks did an incredible job of bringing the horrors of World War II and what happened to Easy Company to life.
If you want a realistic, emotional and thrilling saga of what these Americans did in World War II, watch Band of Brothers. But keep tissues on hand.