This ten-part series by HBO tells the tale of ordinary people during one of the world's darkest times. The Second World War had been raging for years and finally after the attack on Pearl Harbour the Americans chose to enter the war on the side of the allies to help bring victory against the Axis forces. Arguably their biggest and most well known joint offensive was that of the D-Day landings, and the airborne drop that took place the night before by some of the bravest troops. This isn't just about the horrors of war, but about the comradeship of a band of brothers...
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;
There are so many war movies out there where they start of at boot camp with the soldiers learning what it takes to fight the enemy, and in the majority of cases they are instructed by a "tough-as-nails" instructor who pushes them to their limits, and whom the soldiers hate. Band of Brothers starts in this same vein of story-telling though it is told by two soldiers reminiscing about their past days under the tuition of a man from Chicago that they hated who forced them to "run three miles up and three miles down" Currahee, the mountain for which the first episode is named.
Each Band of Brothers starts with an introduction from war veterans from the US 101st Airbourne as they tell of their experiences of war, and what it was like to serve in what was then a brand new type of infantry unit. For this episode they talk about how they were all asked to join this new unit no one had ever heard of, but it wasn't until they were told they'd be earning $50 more that they volunteered despite being told they'd have to jump from aircraft behind enemy lines.
The drill instructor they are remembering is Captain Herbet Sobel, played by David Schwimmer. Initially I did find this character a problem, as he seemed funny more than anything due to him having a certain air of "Ross Gellar" about him. Despite the first impression the character does take on a very different persona to the actor's role in friends, and he is eager to push Easy company to the limits, harder than any other company; but he is also useless at map reading and making decisions in battle. It's the attitude of this drill instructor that unites the men against him when he chooses to lie and court marshals Richard Winters for it.
Throughout most of the episode we see their experiences during basic training up until the point when they are first deployed the night before the D-Day landings. It ends with Winters looking out of one of the planes as many other planes fly in formation around them ready for the "Day of Days".
The Day of Days starts with Easy company parachuting into Normandy; a drop which didn't go entirely to plan with different companies missing their drop zones due to enemy fire. Winters soon meets up with someone from Alpha company and then eventually with some of the others from Easy company. The main point of this story is Winters taking command of the company and destroying one of the German's fixed positions where artillery was firing on the people landing on the beaches. Apparently the tactics they used in taking that gun placement has become one of the tactics taught in the military today. This episode marks the first time we see someone from Easy company die, and it's something Winters doesn't take too well at first.
The following episode is about them taking the town of Carentan in France and centers around Pvt. Blithe who struggles to fight due to the fear that grips him every time he goes into battle. In Carentan he freezes up and claims to be blind (which the doctor later refers to as hysterical blindness), and even after being encouraged to fight he still doesn't manage to start shooting until towards the end when he takes a shot at a German soldier and kills him. After this he is more eager to go into battle but soon suffers a neck wound.
At the end of previous episode the survivors of Easy Company were sent back to base for a short reprieve, and in "Replacements" we see how the experienced soldiers of the 101st Airbourne react to new recruits replacing their fallen comrades and not wanting to get too attached due to their "greenness". In times of war new recruits don't stay green for long and by the end of this episode they've been introduced to the horrors of war and have to retreat for the first time following the failed operation Market Garden. This episode I think goes a long way to demonstrate that these Hollywood films where the good guys always win isn't true in real life and that sometimes the outcome is defeat. We also see some camaraderie between the new recruits when one is left behind enemy lines and they go after him.
In Crossroads we see the promotion of Richard Winters to Executive Officer of the battalion with flash backs to what happened in the report he's seen to be writing. During a surprise attack Winters leads out a small group to the crossroads where a German MG is firing on nothing, but giving away their position.
Bastogne tells the story of the Battle of the Bulge and how the soldiers of Easy Company lived and died in trenches during the bitter cold winter without the proper cold weather gear or enough ammunition. Their siege at Bastogne was just part of the battle of the bulge, but it was a hellish time with many casualties. The Breaking Point sees the men of Easy Company still in their fox holes after the Battle of the Bulge as they prepare to make a move on Foy. It was an episode more about morale really as many of the ones who had survived since Normandy died during the shelling of the forest. Amongst the wounded was Garnier and Toyeh who both lost legs trying to escape the shells. Buck Compton who had been shot in Holland couldn't bare to see any more of his friends die or get injured, and seeing them lose legs in front of him was the final straw which broke him. The Last Patrol happens as the war goes past the tipping point and finally shows promise that the war will be over soon.
Why We Fight is probably one of the most shocking episodes in the mini-series. Up until this point we saw soldiers fighting without them really knowing why they were fighting other than knowing the Germans had killed their friends and that they were the enemy. After the death of Hitler is announced during this episode they go on a patrol and find one of the many prisoner of war camps in Berlin where the Nazi's had kept Jews and ethnic minorities captive. The camp they found was full of starving and dead people in various states of decomposition. This is what this episode is about - showing what horrors were committed by Hitler and his commandants as 6 million people were brutally killed.
Points covers the lives of the soldiers at the end of the war, and tells of how they lived and died after going home to America. It starts with Easy Company capturing the Eagles Nest and the announcement of Victory in England and then moves on to how some went on to fight in the Pacific theatre of war and others went home. The veterans we see at the start of every episode are then revealed to be the real-life members of Easy Company whose lives have been laid out for all to see over this series.
It is my opinion that this is one of the greatest war films you will ever see, the characters are all based on real-life people who fought and died for their country and the story is compelling and shows some of the horrors and brotherhood that comes from war - all set to an amazing soundtrack. Some of the visual pieces such as the