Monday, May 26, 2014

Band of Brothers - Review

A lavish, moving drama centering around a ragtag band of soldiers fighting their way across Europe, Band of Brothers is an incredible testament to the bravery and ingenuity of the WWII military. From a technical standpoint, it's astounding - easily equal to most big-budget films, and often better. The settings, music, sound-mix, acting - everything combines to form an amazing period piece.

On the other hand, the story-telling itself has some issues. For one thing, like in Saving Private Ryan, I had a lot of difficulty keeping up with the varied members of the humongous cast. This made it much harder to empathize with those that lived or died. Many times I found myself asking "Wait, was that ____ who just died?" or "Has ____ been here the whole time?" It isn't helped by the fact that there are frequent new faces as replacements fill the ranks, and who sometimes act as protagonist for an episode. A heavy dose of action (exquisitely filmed and executed) early in the series also distracts from character development, and in the end I could number very few of the men by personality rather than name.

Still, there were exceptions to this, and I was quite familiar with most by the end. While character was seldom built through words, those that had time to build it through action became my favorites. Acting was, as a whole, phenomenal. Damian Lewis really is very good, but I think that part of my inability to like the series as much as I should was that I couldn't connect with him. Don't get me wrong - he's a great actor, and I have a feeling that were the character he creates to walk into the room, I'd immediately heave a salute and a resounding "Sir!", I, personally, just didn't find him as intriguing as, say, Tom Hanks's Captain Miller.

One thing I did like very much was that the series refused to demonize Germans - a far too common tendency in film. After reading Eric Metaxas's biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and watching Valkyrie and Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, I find this impossible. It is true there were many truly evil Nazis, but on the other hand, some were just drafted and following orders, or actually actively fighting Hitler.

In the end, the miniseries accomplishes its purpose - to point us to the actual Easy Company, with reverence. I spent a lot of time googling the actual men after completing it, and (similar to my Saving Private Ryan reaction) feeling awed that these men who had seen such things became ordinary mailmen and grocers and grandfathers. (Also, fun fact: I discovered that my cousin had met one of the survivors at our local VFW. Amazing.)

4/5 stars

Hannah Long


  1. Hmm. I'll have to check this out. It's true that there are too few instances in film where the German soldiers are actually being shown as human. I think that is a tremendous failing.

    1. I agree...though for that I'd recommend Valkyrie (which I reviewed just before this) more highly. Valkyrie was more coherent (and pretty much safe to watch with the kids). As movies go, Saving Private Ryan is superior to Band of Brothers.


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