CHICAGO – Standing up at the Lyric Opera house in Chicago is unusual before a show. But in this case, it was the night after a tragedy, and the operetta “The Merry Widow” – set in Paris, France, in 1905 – was about to unfold. The orchestra struck up La Marseillaise, a reminder that we’ll always have Paris.
DVD Review: ‘Generation Kill’ Defines New Face of American War
CHICAGO – David Simon and Ed Burns, two of the television geniuses behind “The Wire”, turned their eyes and ears from the gang-ridden streets of Baltimore to the bullet-strewn bodies of Iraq in the incredible seven-part HBO mini-series “Generation Kill”, now available in a box set from HBO Home Video.
All the buyers who turned HBO’s “Band of Brothers” into a massively successful DVD release (especially around Father’s Day and Christmas) should put “Generation Kill” on their shopping list this year. It’s easily the best fictional document that has yet to be produced about the nightmare in the Middle East. While films like “Lions For Lambs” and “Redacted” and shows like Steven Bochco’s “Over There” tried to be blanket statements for the entire war and the Bush administration’s bungling of it, Simon and Burns focus “Generation Kill” on the people on the ground. It’s incredible television and another trophy in one of the best years in HBO history.
“Generation Kill” features a riveting blend of relatable behavior and the surreal nature of what’s going on in Iraq. If a satirist had written a book about reporters buying their own Kevlar on Ebay before going into a war zone or having to shave their facial hair so they won’t be infiltrated by the enemy (who can’t shave), critics would accuse it of being over the top. But that’s just the start of the unique details in this adaptation of a non-fiction book written by a journalist who was embedded with the troops.
In an excellent special feature - “Generation Kill: A Conversation With 1st Recon Marines” - Evan Wright, the journalist who wrote the book and inspired the mini-series, comments that he was trying to break down the myth that the “greatest generation” had brought to the war movie. We’ve seen countless movies with “gentlemen soldiers” and that kind of romanticizing of combat has been overdone for years.
“Generation Kill” wants to make you uncomfortable about the war experience. It wants you to know that while these men who put their lives on the line are heroes, they’re also prone to cracking inapppropriate jokes, singing Avril Lavigne songs, and lying prone so they can feel the rumble of the tanks on their private parts as they roll by. Iraq is a messed-up place and “Generation Kill” pulls no punches. They’re normal guys stuck in a very abnormal situation.
“Generation Kill” is not for the weak. Mangled bodies of children, shooting stray dogs for fun - this is not for the faint of heart. But it’s also not abusive to its audience like some Iraq War movies, mixing humor and horror in appropriate amounts.
What truly separates this mini-series from many other war recreations is its complete refusal to vilify the soldiers on the ground. These guys are up 24 hours at a time, using horrendous equpiment, bored out of their minds, and ordered to kill anyone with a gun, even if they’re going in the other direction or so far away that they can’t distinguish a weapon from a stick. Can you blame them for being “Generation Kill”?
With “John Adams”, “Recount”, “In Treatment”, “True Blood”, and “Generation Kill”, HBO reclaimed the cable box in 2008 as the most creative force on television. And they’ve never cut corners with their DVD releases. It’s disappointing that “Generation Kill” hasn’t been released on Blu-Ray, but the technical presentation on standard DVD is above average. “Generation Kill” also includes the aforementioned featurette, just an interview with the real people behind the actors in the mini-series, “Making Generation Kill”, “Eric Ladin’s Video Diaries”, and great audio commentaries.