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The Pacific: A Valuable Tribute to a Dying Generation

Conservatives won't be frustrated by this new HBO miniseries about World War II.

by
Christian Toto

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March 13, 2010 - 12:00 am
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The creative team behind HBO’s Band of Brothers is back to bring us another stirring ode to World War II-era warriors.

The Pacific follows the Marines who battled the Japanese army along the inhospitable terrains of the Philippines, the Netherlands East Indies, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.

The change of setting from Europe to islands crisscrossing the Pacific is enough to justify the new miniseries’ existence. And while The Pacific isn’t always as dramatically compelling as the historical record, it’s a valuable tribute to a dying generation.

The 10-part miniseries debuts at 9 p.m. EST Sunday night (March 14) with action that begins shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese forces were pummeling U.S. troops for a spell, and it looked like the attack’s momentum would carry the Asian nation to even more military victories.

Each one-hour installment starts with a brief background on the action to follow. World War II veterans reminisce about their Pacific-based combat missions in interviews interconnected by The Pacific co-producer Tom Hanks’ stoic narration.

The series leans on a series of books for inspiration, including Helmet for My Pillow, With the Old Breed, Red Blood, Black Sand, and China Marine. But it’s clear the interviews with the aged Marines also impacted the finished product.

And each time we see those old soldiers on screen, still vital, still able to recall the minute details of their heroism, we marvel at the sacrifices they made on the country’s behalf.

If it’s a storytelling gimmick to kickstart each episode in documentary fashion, it’s a darn good one.

The connective thread involves three Marines — poet warrior Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), John Basilone (Jon Seda, one of the few “name” actors in the solid ensemble), and Eugene B. Sledge (Joe Mazzello).

The latter’s character proves to be the most involving, as he overcomes a heart murmur diagnosis to enlist against the wishes of his father. Once the bullets start flying, it’s hard to blame his dad for wishing his son were anywhere else but crawling through these nightmarish jungles.

Modern war movies don’t hold back on the bloodier aspects of combat, a trend unofficially cemented with Steven Spielberg‘s 1998 epic Saving Private Ryan.

The Pacific continues in that vein without feeling exploitative or cheap. The carnage underscores the constant danger Marines faced as they poured onto battlefields already teeming with enemy soldiers.

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