DVD REVIEW: Band of Brothers [Blu-ray]
Based on the true story of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s tour of duty in Europe throughout World War II, HBO’s Band of Brothers mini-series is a truly extraordinary piece of work. The series goes beyond groundbreaking with its writing, acting, and attention to detail as well as its serious production value, which helped the series ring in as one of the most expensive television shows in history. The cost and efforts were not in vain and the series, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, will stand as the high water mark for the mini-series in addition to being one of the greatest television productions in history.
The story, adapted from the book written by Stephen Ambrose, follows the soldiers from their basic training in Georgia to the end of the war in Austria. The story itself, compellingly told through the men of E (or “Easy”) Company and the 10 installments, begins with interviews from the actual soldiers portrayed in the series. Easy Company is seen jumping over Normandy on D-day, getting beat up during Operation Market Garden, turning the tide at the Battle of the Bulge, and raiding Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” towards the end of the war. The film is an honest depiction of war and the historical accuracy is another highlight of the series.
The true heart of the film lies in the characters and it’s these eclectic personalities (in life and in fiction) that are the real strength of the production. The ensemble cast is brilliant in their portrayals of the eclectic group of volunteer soldiers that came together to form America’s first parachute company. The series wanders through the group of men but the most consistent focus lies on Major Richard Winters played by Damian Lewis. The character is an embodiment of the American World War II ideal and Lewis rises to the occasion in his performance. His best friend and confidant is Captain Lewis Nixon who is brilliantly played by Ron Livingston (well known from his lead role in the cult classic Office Space). The two tie together the pieces of the story weaving in humor, earnestness, and contemplation when necessary.
The series is at times: moving, funny, thoughtful, and devastating and the balance of tempo is one of its greatest achievements. Each installment offers the audience a different, but equally interesting viewpoint from the day-to-day life of a soldier in Episode 4, “Replacements,” to a look at the reality of war amidst the chaos in Episode 6, “Bastogne.” Overall the series is an amazingly well crafted look at an integral moment in history and a stirring work of art.