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TV Review: Everyone Should Watch Masterful ‘The Pacific’

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CHICAGO – I must admit to some trepidation about HBO’s WWII mini-series “The Pacific” from producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, debuting tonight, March 14th, 2010 at 8pm CST. Why? Because “Band of Brothers” is the best mini-series of all time and it’s difficult for anyone to pitch a perfect game two starts in a row. I knew it would be good, but doubted it would be great. I was wrong. It’s spectacular.

HollywoodChicago.com TV Rating: 5.0/5.0
TV Rating: 5.0/5.0

Far more than merely a shadow or duplication of “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific” stands on its own for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the war in the Pacific arena of battle was much different than the European fight. There’s nothing in Europe that compares to the jungle of Guadalcanal, the main setting for the first hour of the ten-hour piece. There are hundreds of stories of the American soldier experience in World War II and even just the setting for the episodes of “The Pacific” makes them feel immediately distinct from “Band of Brothers”.

The Pacific
The Pacific
Photo credit: David James/HBO

It also appears that “The Pacific” is going to be more about the specific human toll of war than the first mini-series. It’s all there in the titles. The first mini-series was about how boys band together as they become brothers. The second is about how a deadly destination forever changed the young men sent there. It’s clear that “The Pacific” will be more about the psychological damage of something most of us cannot possibly imagine going through and coming out sane than the unity of men traveling through Hell. It’s more about what’s on the other side than what’s on the actual journey.

The Pacific
The Pacific
Photo credit: David James/HBO

And it would be remiss not to note that this mini-series comes after a decade spent largely at war and spawned by a tragic event compared to Pearl Harbor. When “Band of Brothers” launched in 2001, I don’t think anyone expected that we would again send young men to die on the other side of the world for practically the next ten years. “The Pacific” has an added resonance when one considers that there are Marines going through something not that dissimilar to the harrowing action on-screen right this very minute.

The first episode of “The Pacific” focuses on four of the major characters of the entire piece during two crucial periods of the beginning of our involvement in World War II. It opens in the weeks after Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 as troops were being formed to send overseas. We meet PFC Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) as he says goodbye to his distant father and meets a girl at church who he promises to write, Marine Sgt. John Basilone (Jon Seda) as he listens to his superior (William Sadler) detail the importance of what these young men are about to do, and Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello) and his friend PFC Sidney Phillips (Ashton Holmes). The former is torn apart by the fact that his heart murmur will keep him from serving alongside his shipping-out buddy.

The bulk of the premiere takes place at Guadalcanal in August of 1942. The 1st Marine Division, including Leckie and Phillips, lands on the hellish island in an attempt to secure the crucial land mass and stem the Japanese progression towards Australia. Like so many stories of war, long stretches of “The Pacific” are spent with soldiers marching through the jungle from one strategic location to another.

We get to know some of them, but the piece never focuses too strongly on any young man, not valuing one over another. If there’s a lead, it’s Dale as the intellectual Leckie. He’s instantly good at selling the everyman quality in his eyes that makes something like this all the more resonant. The centerpiece of the premiere is a firefight on a river that is one of the most harrowing and disturbing war scenes ever filmed. Just the look in Dale’s eyes makes clear that this man is different the morning after than he was the night before.

The Pacific
The Pacific
Photo credit: Andrew Cooper/HBO

Technically, “The Pacific” is simply unbelievable. Directed by Tim Van Patten (a veteran of “The Wire,” “Deadwood,” and 20 episodes of “The Sopranos”) and written by Bruce McKenna (three episodes of “Band of Brothers”), the first episode is paced perfectly and as expertly executed as any major feature film. The cinematography, score, editing, etc. would all be considered Oscar caliber if this was an awards season film.

Considering their notable and incredibly influential history, it’s amazing to note that this could be the best year HBO has ever delivered to paying subscribers. They have more than weathered the departure of their first wave of mega-hits like “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” to find new ones in shows like “Big Love” and “True Blood”. 2010 brings a new show from the creator of “The Wire” called “Treme,” a new series from Martin Scorsese called “Boardwalk Empire,” a few returning favorites like “Entourage” and “Eastbound and Down,” and, of course, “The Pacific”. Showtime and FX have improved into two of the best networks on television but no one can touch HBO.

The quote that leads the production notes for “The Pacific” says more about war and what the mini-series will clearly be about than this critic possibly could, from the real Eugene Sledge - “It is not history, and it is not my story alone. I have attempted, rather, to be the spokesman for my comrades, who were swept with me into the abyss of war.” “The Pacific” is the story of a few and the story of many. It is both historical document and something that feels remarkably current. And, most of all, it is amazing, riveting television of a caliber that does not come along too often. You don’t want to miss a minute.

‘The Pacific’ premieres on HBO on Sunday, March 14th, 2010 at 8pm CST. It stars James Badge Dale, Jon Seda, Joe Mazzello, William Sadler, Caroline Dhavernas, Jon Bernthal, Joshua Bitton, Tom Budge, Linda Cropper, Josh Helman, and Toby Leonard Moore. The first episode was directed by Tim Van Patten and written by Bruce C. McKenna. The series was executive produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

MACDONALDBANK1's picture

The Pacific

Band of Brothers is a masterpiece and I am looking forward to The Pacific. My father fought from Normandy on D-Day through the Battle of the Scheldt to Berlin and grandfather fought at Vimy.

I directed GETTY and HITLER … Soundtrack ….

I earned the Getty Oil Company shareholders A Billion Bucks
On the Reserve acquisition; the way they treat me — it really sucks!
As the Getty inheritors bask in glee;
All I asked for was that they look after me.
A billion dollars they earned on Reserve
My fee I surely deserve.
It turns out J.P. Getty may have been a Nazi;
His family even goes back to Germany.
With Hitler, Goring & Goebbels he did stand;
While trying to undermine the American land!
For paintings & artifacts he did receive
With his oil he was able to deceive?
Hoover & the FBI & Roosevelt they knew
That J.P. Getty & espionage he drew!
Many a young lad and Jew did die
As planes dropped bombs from the sky.
For years while Getty sat in Berlin
He may have committed many a sin.
The ashes and smoke from the chimneys it rose
While old man Getty sat cozy; he chose.
With artwork held tightly under his arm
Still dripping in blood — as the real owner met harm.
Into the ovens & on meat-hooks, bullets between the eyes
Listen very carefully you can still hear their cries!
While the Gettys sit in England; at their estate at Wormsley
And Gordon sings in San Francisco
With his 727 in tow.
The Getty museum sits atop Malibu
While the corpses of World War 2 scream — J.P. Getty — We know you!

Anonymous's picture

FACT IS —-having made

FACT IS —-having made BILLIONS upon BILLIONS outsourcing,
and unflinchingly catering to the franchise-slum denial
needs of history’s MOST awesomely genocidal regime -in their
‘fave’ captive mass market —-ACROSS the Pacific
-Hollywood is continuing to run for moral cover behind
ad nauseum, anachronistic PC WWII retreads —-EVEN on this!
the once again ‘mysteriously overlooked’ 60th Anniversary
of the epic, genuinely relevant —-INDEED —-STILL unfolding
————-KOREAN WAR!

It will NOT wash… AMEN

Anonymous's picture

*sigh*

It irritates me when people say “i watched it expecting BoB, but it was highly dissapointing”. What you have to understand is just because it is made by the same people doesnt mean its going to be the same show.
I understand the characters werent developed aswell as BoBs characters was, but BoB was about Easy Company so they had to develope the characters well. From what i have seen Pacific is not focusing on the company, it is focusing on the horrors and brutality of the pacific theatre. It protreys the hardship and the mental/physical termoil the 1st marines went through.
If you went to watch it expecting BoB then you are a idiot, im sorry, it’s true. Do you go to play half life 2 expecting counter-strike because it was by the same people? do you go to eat tim tams expecting chocolate teddy bears because the same company makes it? no of course not, they are unique, if Pacific was meant to be a clone of BoB then what would be the point? The will be no defining features. Personally i think Pacific potreys the horrors of war better than BoB does, however in BoB you get attached to the characters, and connect.

Darrin McDougall's picture

The pacific

I was avidly waiting for this series to air on T.V but after reading Hugh Ambrose’s companion book ‘The Pacific’ I, as an Australian, who’s 2 grandfathers had fought in the pacific, especially in such places as New Guinea,the Solomans and Borneo,will not be watching it. As he claims in his book that the Japanese were handed their 1st defeat on land at Guadalcanal.This is a historical falsehood as the Australians defeated and turned back the Japanese at Milne Bay on 7th Sept 1942,while the brave Marines of the 1st Div. were still slugging it out there! Even the British Field Marshall William Slim is quaoted as saying “Australian troops had, at Milne Bay in New Guinea, inflicted on the Japanese their first undoubted defeat on land. If the Australians, in conditions very like ours, had done it, so could we. Some of us may forget that of all the Allies it was the Australian soldiers who first broke the spell of the invincibility of the Japanese Army; those of us who were in Burma have cause to remember.” [2] Now I fully realise that the U.S forces did the bulk of the fighting and dieing in the Pacific and we are eternally grateful for that,but when it comes to portraying history on T.V please get the facts right,and tell history as it truly was.I understand that the series is based on the memoirs of 3 men of the Marines and i’m not trying to take anything away from these brave men and thier comrades,but I do take umbrage to historians who don’t get their facts right and then transfer that error to the screen!

Anonymous's picture

As millions continue to

As millions continue to suffer and die FOR REAL
on this, the once again ‘mysteriously overlooked’
60th Anniversary of the urgently relevant, indeed, STILL
unfolding KOREAN WAR —-Hollywood continues to pitch
moral camoflage for itself and diversionary cover
for their ‘fave’ mass market paradise —-otherwise
known as history’s —MOST— awesomely genocidal regime
-bar none! —-ACROSS the Pacfic.

STOP being such set-up saps! —-it’s gettin’ dangerous!

Nathan otero's picture

i agree with mr mcdougall

i was a bit offended after watching the pacific you’d think ANZAC soldiers would get some recognition in the show! also instead of saying like they did in the show that our army was in north africa and not the pacific is stupid fact check the show in both theatres of war ANZAC troops fought. in the battle of britain australian pilots attached to the RAF fought in Tobruk and the rest of north africa they fought in greece demascus and over the sky’s of italy ANZAC troops fought and in the pacific they fought in the solomon islands campaign the new guenia campaign the borneo campaign in singapore and burma were they were kept prisoner and built the bridge on the river kwaii as well as british and other commenwealth forces that fought and died for thre homelands so on behalf of those soldiers who died in battle for Australia newzealand canada england scotland wales and of course our American “friends” (who have forgotten our boy’s and girls efforts in the war) i like to say sorry your efforts go un recognised by others than yourselves but it’s an american thing to forget the little guy also the show was filmed in Australia so F@#k the writers and there narrowed minded american a@^$e holes pardon my french (french are not recognized overly in BoB either) but if it were not for those bloody yanks this might all be writen in japenese so i gladly thank those veterans who fought side by side with use but i don’t thank the directors and producers of the show they no nothing about these brave young men who would be very dissapointed to see there comrades forgotten shame on you HBO make another show about use next time and only put in a minimim amount of sex aswell i like action and story not just “porn” on a tv show well that will do.

jenifer111's picture

The Pacific

I was so happy that The Pacific was being nominated for Emmy Awards. The pacific is such a great mini series that it is focusing on the horrors and brutality.

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