Saturday, February 4, 2023

Band of Brothers

Although focused on a specific Paratrooper group (Easy Company, 506th Regiment of 101st Airbourne Division, , U.S. Army) this strikes me as one of the more comprehensive World War II films.  In many war films there are paratroopers shown as the advance attack force,but they aren't followed nearly as closely as in "Band of Brothers" (2001).

 To maintain authenticity the actual veterans covered recalled  the actual events and their feelings at the start of most of the 10 episodes (at the concluding episode the veterans are interviewed at the end).  Without their approval scenes could not be filmed and in some cases deleted.  The coverage starts with training camp in the U.S.  Here we encounter a tough trainer who eventually loses the respect of the trainees.  We appreciate that the paratroopers are elite forces who not only go behind enemy lines, but are able to disrupt defensive positions.  Stealth is required to attack enemy soldiers on their home turf.

When they are set to land behind and ahead of D-Day they encounter anti aircraft guns and fighter jets.  They have to deal with casualties, but they are able move the invasion forward.  Taken back to England they prepare for a variety of jumps as they invade different European countries.   The initial jumpers need to get used to replacements.  The brotherhood forms as they suffer the same dangers and the same confidence  building triumphs.  

In the Netherlands they are greeted as liberators, being kissed by the women.  On the other hand they see women with shaved heads who are being castigated for sleeping with Germans.   Everywhere they go they are treated as liberators by the natives.

One episodes devotes coverage to the medics.  In their jumps and battles the paratroopers suffer a wide variety of injuries.  Treating them incurs a lot of risk, but in their vulnerability they save lives and prolong the fight.

Aside from attacking the enemy the paratroopers are also responsible for capturing prisoners and making sure they are handed over to the proper authorities.  Towards the end of European war  when they crossed the German borders there were literally hundreds of soldiers surrendering.

All too many of the Americans came across concentration camps which at the beginning they could not quite fathom the hatred that went into them.  For many who had started seeing Germans as humans were aghast.  The soldiers could not believe that the nearby German civilians were unaware of what happened  in the camps.  We saw emaciated people with tatoo numbers plus even more dead bodies.  The survivors were starving, but after medical advice had to limit food so as not to damage further their bodies.  German civilians were forced to help clean up the mess including dead and suffering bodies.

Throughout most episodes are found a lot of violence.  Lots of explosions and gun shots.  Particularly gruesome were scenes of huge tanks crushing soldiers and bayoneting.  To survive too many of us become callous (to some extent that includes viewers).

Human nature reveals itself not only in the brotherhood felt by those who suffered and triumphed together, but also by many petty activities.  Resentment of poor leadership, discomfort with those replacing lost partners and a resentment towards fellow Americans who didn't understand the combatant's sacrifices.  Many could not resist taking guns, flags and other items as contraband. 

Reading comments revealed what was not shown.  As near as I can recall there were the soldiers  not included blacks, Asians, or Hispanics.  It was a white man's war and they were the heroes only there was more to it.

Truly a blockbuster effort resulting in Prime Time Emmy awards.  Not possible in a blog to do justice to all the contributor and the following are merely a sampling of the creativity brought to this project.

Tom Hanks, director of 1 episode, executive producer and writer of 1 episode.  Tom Hanks spends more time producing than acting.  He manages to combine both disciplines with this film.  He did not get involved in acting until after floundering in efforts in college when a community theater.  His first film was "Splash" (1988) under Ron Howard and was a box office success.  Another film that propelled him forward was "A League of Their Own" (1992) followed shortly with "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) and "Philadelphia" (1993) for which he won an Oscar.  "Forest Gump" (1994) won him another Oscar and was a global box office hit.  In 1996 he got into directing with "That Thing That You do" (1996).  In 2002 he became the youngest actor to win the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.  His film credits include:   "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), "Castaway" (2000), "Saving Mr. Banks" (20130, "Bridge of Spies" (2015),"Sully" (2016), "The Post" (2017) and "A Man Called Otto" (2023).   check:

Graham Yost, writer of 2 episodes has been both a producer and writer.  His father Elway Yost used to host Saturday Night at the Movies which was one of the influences for better undersanding movies.  His movie credits include "Speed" (1994), "John Adams" (2008) and one my all time favorite Canadian movies, "The Grizzlies" (2018).  Check

Stephen E. Ambrose wrote the original book.  He is considered the top military historian, specializing in World War II.  Has also written biographies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.He was the founder of the Eisenhower Center and president of the National D-Day Museum.  He has been quoted saying "The number one secret of being a successful writer is this:  marry an English major."

Mary Richards was the producer.   She started as a production assistant in 1975.  From there she got more involved with production managing and producing.  Her film credits include "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994) "Notting Hill (1999) and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008.) 

Steven Spielberg was also an executive producer.  He has been a producer, writer, and director.winning 3 Oscars. His film credits include "E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988) "Schindler's List" (1993), "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), "Lincoln" (2012) and "West Side Story" (2021).     

Damian Lewis played Richard D. Winters in all 10 episodes.  He was born in England  Appeared in 37 episodes of "Homeland" (2011-2014).  He had a flawless American accent that fooled some of his cast mates.  After getting theatrical training he acted with the Royal Shakespeare Theatrre.  He was spotted by Steven Spielberg on a stage play and brought him over to films. 

Ben Caplan appeared in 5 episodes.  He got his training at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.  He performed on stage and later some directing.  He appeared in episodes of "Inspector Morse" (1997) and "A Touch of Frost" (1999).  He appeared in "Leap Year" (2010) and for 32 episodes of "Call the Midwife" (2012-2017).

 Tom Hardy made his television debut with 2 episodes of "Band of Brothers."  In one film  "Locke" (2013) he was the only actor who appeared on screen,  Other film credits include "Inception" (2010), "Child 44" (2015), "Dunkirk" (2017) and "Taboo" (2017).

In truth this was a very impressive team effort.  They won 6 Prime Emmy plus another 8 nominations.  Well worth the effort.

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