Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Pacific

The Show: The Pacific

The Actors: Joseph Mazzello, James Badge Dale, Jon Seda and many others.

The Dealio: So, OK, Band of Brothers, perhaps the most significant, touching and global look at the European Theatre of WWII, was magnificent. I have watched this entire program at least 20 times- actually more than my sweetea, who watches it fairly often. I mean, there is no such thing as a boring or repetitious epi in the lot. Then, along came The Pacific, which was intended to provide a sort of historical bookend by depicting the Pacific theatre of ops. Everyone was hoping for a comparable look at this unique time in American history. Well, they got it...and they didn't. First of all, the entire European ops took place over a very contained area, over a very short period of time, and it was physically possible for one unit-Easy Company- to have participated in about every major campaign in the whole dog and pony show. The Pacific, though, was an entirely different sort of critter. The ops were widely spaced-both in terms of time and in terms of geography. No single unit really had access to the major campaigns, as men rotated in and out of their units, out of the area, on a regular basis.
Next, the concentration, the focus of The Pacific was on, for the most part, three major characters, all USMC, to be sure, but vastly different men, with natures and motivations as different as their backgrounds. Seda portrayed John Basilone, a Medal of Honor winner who moved, equally easily, between the world of combat, under unthinkable conditions, and the world of press releases, bond drives and H'wood-style fame. Next was Robert Leckie, a pre-war sports writer who seemed to feel more than was personally comfortable. Both a screw-up in the art of war and a genius with the written word, he also spent time in a 'rehab hospital' during the war in reaction to what he had seen. He was able to return to his niche in journalism after the war, and continued on to write close to forty books, including one about his experiences in the Pacific. Our third hero, Eugene Sledge, was the last addition to The Pacific. The son of a doctor (who had experience with the men who returned from the War To End All Wars, physically intact, but psychologically wounded in ways that they could never have known would stay with them their entire lives). Eugene was a boy with a heart murmur who was passed over as 'unfit' while his closest friends went off to 'do their duty'. Eugene finally got to enlist, was sent to the Pacific theatre, and there, he evolved from a soft-spoken, non-smoking/drinking innocent, to someone who was haunted for the rest of his life by nightmares and visions of what he had seen-and done- to survive.
Folks, this was no Band of Brothers. There. I've said it. Should you watch this show? Should you go so far as to purchase the DVD set when it comes out? Should you make the emotional investment? To quote my favorite Boston detective/wiseass, 'We'd be fools not to.' I really loved this program, looked forward to it, and sobbed mightily when it finished with a quick 'catch you up with the major players.' This was a series tougher to watch than BOB, with far fewer moments of humor and lightheartedness. This is not to say those elements went missing in The Pacific. They did not. But the harrowing moments, the relentless assaults, not only from the Japanese combatants, but also by the elements, a misunderstanding public back home and by those higher ups (yep, Dugout Doug, I am pointing right at you, dude)who made half-baked plans based on half-baked predictions of instant success and dominance over their enemy, took precedence, making this series, at times, almost too much to bear.
The actors all did a terrific job, forcing us to care about things as wide-ranging as what they were forced to eat ('Tonight's choices are: beef and rice...without beef; chicken and rice without chicken or pork and rice, but no pork...') to how they were forced to grin and bear it when sent back home to press the flesh and make people open their wallets for the cause.

The Grading Session: 4.899 pengies out of 5. Although now, it seems to me like comparing apples to pineapples, I do get the connection: this was an homage on the part of the executive producers to the men-and women- who served in the Pacific during WWII. But do not compare the two productions. Take the time to give each a fair trial. I think you will be as moved as I was by the drama, vision and scope of each: different and unique in their intent and execution.

Lessons Learned: A couple of oldies, which are still true today. War is hell. Also, ordinary people, in the face of extraordinary challenges, rise up and do extraordinary things. Then, they pay the price for what they have done. Lastly this (and it is important to note, please): it does not matter who is in charge. Bad decisions are made by the higher-ups, and are paid for by the lower-downs. That is a crime, a shame and an unbelievably cruel truth. However, those sacrifices have also given us our continued freedom. For this, simply give thanks to those who have gone before, who stood watch, waded in and made the ultimate sacrifice.
Over and out...but not out of mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment