It seems like today would be an appropriate time to take a look at the amazing Blu-ray edition of the HBO series “The Pacific,” which was released last week. A follow-up but not a direct sequel to the amazing 2001 series “Band Of Brothers,” it’s another 10-hour trip through a particular theater of engagement for WWII, following multiple characters based on real soldiers and their memoirs.
I didn’t watch the series as it was airing, so for me, “The Pacific” was a three-day event, and although I would still say I preferred “Band Of Brothers,” I found myself once again impressed by this scale of storytelling and by the way these true stories are spun into virtual history. These are amazing shows, and on a day like today, what something like “The Pacific” can do for an audience is personalize the unbelievable effort expended by each and every soldier who fought in WWII, and to drive home just how high the cost is when we send people to war. I love that Tom Hanks has taken his appetite for history and turned it into these high-gloss HBO series like “From Earth To The Moon.” These are some of the most significant things he’s been involved in, and I think they deserve special attention when talking about his career.
My father is a veteran, having served in Vietnam, and one of the things I’ve always tried to respect is that his time in the service is not something he wants to discuss in any detail. During the ’80s, when Vietnam suddenly became a major part of the cinematic landscape, we went to see several of those films together, and even then, we never dug not my father’s specific memories too deeply.
One of the reasons something like “The Pacific” has value is because it serves to fill that information gap between those who went to war and those who have not. I can imagine what these men saw and experienced, but I can’t really fully understand it. By taking ten hours to follow these characters through the entire Pacific theater, we get a sense of the inch-by-inch difficulty and horror of the situation.
The HBO Blu-ray set is remarkably well-produced, with supplements designed to expand on both the personal stories and the historical context. As with “Band Of Brothers,” the moment that devastated me comes as the end of the series, when we finally see the real faces of all the characters we’ve come to know over the previous ten hours. And I understand why. It’s one thing to watch “The Pacific” and react to it as a film experience. It’s so expertly staged and filmed that it is akin to being there. Whether it’s dealing with Japanese snipers or crazy weather or the constant stench of death and rot, “The Pacific” puts you right down there in the mud, and so you get as much of a sense as possible of what the experience would actually be.
And then at the very end, to see the real faces of the people who did this… to be hit by the full impact of what they were willing to endure to guarantee that I would be able to sit here, fifty-plus year later, free and able to live this particular American dream… it is humbling. Joseph Mazzelo, Jon Seda, Ashton Holmes, James Badge Dale, Rami Malek… as well as PFC Eugene Sledge, Sgt. John Basilone, PFC Sidney Phillips, PFC Robert Leckie, and PFC Merriell “Snafu” Shelton… give specific name to the general sacrifice that our country is built on.
If you don’t own “Band Of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” you really should. They are both outstanding, fitting tributes to the subjects they honor. They are available now from HBO on Blu-ray and DVD.
And although I’ve said it before, you can never say it enough. Thank you, Dad, for serving.