Blu-Ray Review: HBO’s ‘The Pacific’ Stands as One of TV’s Best Mini-Series

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CHICAGOHBO’s “Band of Brothers” has been an annual bestseller around the holiday season, first on DVD and now on Blu-ray, and it seems virtually impossible that their equally-notable “The Pacific,” now on Blu-ray and DVD, would not follow it up the charts and turn out to be one of the most-given HD gifts of the upcoming season. With perfect HD picture and sound, fascinating special features, and one of the best mini-series in the history of television, this is a highlight of a very-impressive season for Blu-ray. Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

“The Pacific” is simply spectacular. The winner of an amazing eight Emmys, including Outstanding Mini-Series, “The Pacific” is really in a class of its own. It is much more than a mere shadow or duplication of “Band of Brothers.” It stands on its own, not merely because the Pacific arena of World War II combat was significantly different than the European fight, but because the quality of the former series shouldn’t take away from this one. It’s just as good. 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 was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 2nd, 2010
The Pacific was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 2nd, 2010
Photo credit: HBO Home Video

Where “Band of Brothers” focused on the unity formed within combat, “The Pacific” is more about the specific human toll taken by a deadly destination. The producers, writers, and directors of “The Pacific” don’t just transport viewers back with perfect production values but try and relate the psychological damage that was often far worse than the physical pain. With added resonance due to the fact that so many American soldiers have died in combat in the decade since “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific” cuts straight through to the emotional bone. The rules of war may change but the human cost never will.

Like “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific” is a densely-conceived and written program with dozens of speaking roles and no clear lead. Like a real group of soldiers, men come to the front and then fade back as others play a significant role. Stars include James Badge Dale (recently seen on “Rubicon”), Jon Seda, William Sadler, Ashton Holmes, Joe Mazello, and Jon Bernthal (recently seen on “The Walking Dead”). But “The Pacific” is not about individual performances. It’s about an entire generation of men who were forever changed by what they saw during World War II.

The Pacific was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 2nd, 2010
The Pacific was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 2nd, 2010
Photo credit: HBO Home Video

Technically, “The Pacific” is simply jaw-dropping. It looks better than most feature films and is as expertly-directed and executed as nearly anything you’ve seen in a multiplex in the last few years. If the premiere episode of “The Pacific” were released in theaters, it would garner multiple Oscar nominations, including cinematography, editing, sound design, visual effects, and more. It is quite simply one of the most impressive events in the history of television.

Given that fact and the inherent audience that have made “Band of Brothers” a smash hit on the home market, HBO Home Video could have released a bare-bones set with just the episodes themselves but they’re gone above and beyond to create a Blu-ray set just as notable as the show itself.

Every episode features “Enhanced Viewing,” a feature that presents picture-in-picture interviews, photos, and technical details about the people on-screen. It adds to the depth of the entire project to see the real people side-by-side, even if it’s often just in photographs. A similar feature (“Field Guide”) offers exclusive content with animated maps, interviews with historians and veterans, historical footage, photographs, and more. An entire final disc is devoted to special features, although here is the only area in which the set arguably disappoints as “Profiles of The Pacific,” “Making The Pacific,” and “Anatomy of the Pacific War” all feel a little slight, especially when compared to the wealth of information you’ll have just learned picture-in-picture on all ten parts of the mini-series.

With only two episodes per disc, the compression on “The Pacific” is so minimal that the HD transfer looks even more ridiculously good than you’d expect. And the sound mix is shattering. Turn it up loud and let it rattle your bones. A mini-series like this one is supposed to shake you.

“The Pacific” may be just the story of a few people but it is relatable to many. It is a historical document that also feels remarkably timely. Don’t miss it. Don’t fail to own it. Not only is TV this rare something that should be treasured but you will have a tough time finding a better Blu-ray TV box set this season. “The Pacific” stands alone.

‘The Pacific’ was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 2nd, 2010. 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 series was executive produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman. It was released by HBO Home Video. content director Brian Tallerico

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