Band of Brothers
Based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, the epic 10-part miniseries Band of Brothers tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers' journals and letters, Band of Brothers chronicles the experiences of these men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. They were an elete rifle company parachuting into France early on D-Day morning, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. They were also a unit that suffered 150 percent casualties, and whose lives became legend.
An impressively rigorous, unsentimental, and harrowing look at combat during World War II, Band of Brothers follows a company of airborne infantry--Easy Company--from boot camp through the end of the war. The brutality of training takes the audience by increments to the even greater brutality of the war; Easy Company took part in some of the most difficult battles, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the failed invasion of Holland, and the Battle of the Bulge, as well as the liberation of a concentration camp and the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest. But what makes these episodes work is not their historical sweep but their emphasis on riveting details (such as the rattle of a plane as the paratroopers wait to leap, or a flower in the buttonhole of a German soldier) and procedures (from military tactics to the workings of bureaucratic hierarchies). The scope of this miniseries (10 episodes, plus an actual documentary filled with interviews with surviving veterans) allows not only a thoroughness impossible in a two-hour movie, but also captures the wide range of responses to the stress and trauma of war--fear, cynicism, cruelty, compassion, and all-encompassing confusion. The result is a realism that makes both simplistic judgments and jingoistic enthusiasm impossible; the things these soldiers had to do are both terrible and understandable, and the psychological price they paid is made clear. The writing, directing, and acting are superb throughout. The cast is largely unknown, emphasizing the team of actors as a whole unit, much like the regiment; Damian Lewis and Ron Livingston play the central roles of two officers with grit and intelligence. Band of Brothers turns a vast historical event into a series of potent personal experiences; it's a deeply engrossing and affecting accomplishment. --Bret Fetzer