I write this review based on my experiences of watching the whole series on Sky HD in the UK. Although from the same stable (HBO, Spielberg and Hanks) as Band of Brothers, this is a rather different beast, covering the stories of three different US Marines (Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie and John Basilone) across the battles of the Pacific from August 1942 to end of the war in 1945. Its structure is therefore determined and limited by historical fact and the source material. I won't repeat too much of the background or general overview as that is clearly set out in the synopsis and in other reviews on this web page.
There is a great deal to be admired and appreciated with this truly epic production. The attention to historical details is stunning, although some events have been changed to help the narrative and to focus on the key themes that the writers wanted to develop. The performances by the cast are outstanding and I'm sure they will pick up a shed load of awards next year. This is also a no-holds barred production with easily the most brutal depiction of the horror of war you are likely to ever see depicted on screen.
That said, there some problems with parts of the series. The strongest elements are those taken from E B Sledge's memoirs "With the Old Breed" - see my own review of this book - which have clear story and character arcs and require less historical knowledge to follow. The two and half episodes that cover the battle of Peleliu are simply outstanding and worth the price alone. The story of Gunnery Sgt. Basilone is less well developed and feels a bit like a bolt on most of the time. That said, the 10 minutes or so of Iwo Jima action is some of the best combat simulation you'll see in the series.
The series weakest parts are the first three episodes, of which the two covering Guadalcanal are disappointing and confusing. The problem stems partly from the complex nature of that battle, of which the 1st US Marine Division was involved in from August to November 1942. More time and effort was needed to set up the characters and to explain what was happening, where, when and why. I accept this was a tough assignment but some simple changes like dates and location details on-screen would have helped. The third episode takes place in Melbourne as the Marines recover after their ordeal. Here the writers have invented a fictitious (i.e.non-historical) relationship for Bob Leckie with an Aussie/Greek girl which fills half the episode, time which could have been better spent expanding the Guadalcanal section.
For all the problems with these early episodes the rest of the series is excellent from Ep.4 onwards when it picks up the pace and doesn't let go until the end when the final section sees the Marines return home to the US.
Perhaps the best recommendation I can give is from Eugene Sledge's own family who are quoted as saying that they did not understand what he went through during the war until they saw this series.
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