Created by: David Simon, Ed Burns, Evan Wright || Written by: David Simon, Ed Burns, Evan Wright
Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, James Ransone, Billy Lush, Stark Sands, Marc Menchaca, Jon Huertas, Mike Figueroa, Josh Barrett, Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Reyes
No. of Episodes: 7 (miniseries) || Running Time: 470 minutes (7 episodes)
As it turned out, The Wire (2002-2008) creator, David Simon, decided to stay busy following the conclusion of his master show in 2008 by developing an excellent miniseries based on the book, Generation Kill (GK), by Evan Wright, about the initial US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was a good move, as the series showcased arguably the best and most accurate dramatization of the Iraq War to date. The series follows the US Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the first days of the war. During our time following these troops, we get to learn about the various personalities that make up each squad, from the lowest Jarhead to the officers in charge of calling the shots.
If GK has an agenda, most of it has to do with satirizing the military intelligence’s Iraqi campaign strategy. For lack of better words, Simon and company make nearly all the commanding officers seem like complete jackasses. Almost every guy in charge acts like a complete idiot, either by not knowing how to work with the locals, not sending the right reinforcements at the right time, being overly aggressive in battle plans, and so on. This is the only thing in the entire series that stuck out to me as possibly being untrue or inaccurate (not that that in and of itself is inherently bad in a non-documentary narrative), but then again, I can’t really say for sure because I didn’t serve in the invasion of Iraq. The only bad part of this “agenda” to portray most of the Marine officers as fools, if one can call it that, is that many of the characters act like goofy caricatures that feel somewhat tiresome — although again, there are some people who do act like cartoon characters at times and are extremely incompetent. I don’t know for sure what to make of this, so I’ll just leave it at that.
The acting of most of the soldiers, particularly in the unit we follow (the one with the embedded journalist whose accounts this miniseries is based on), is outstanding. These guys all feel like real people, both with memorable personalities and important character flaws, be they whiny, slightly racist, or woefully naive and idealistic. The characterizations and the performances come together in a great ensemble mix that will make these characters stick with you long after you’re done watching the series.
The location shooting is fantastic and does a great job to set the mood of the series. It paints a picture of an ancient land ravaged by war, and it reminded me of the desolation from the equally well shot The Hurt Locker (2009).
Probably what the film is best at, though, is analyzing the larger social implications behind the Marine’s actions and how the mission at hand affects the soldiers, officers, Iraqi citizens, and America’s relationship with the Middle-East as a result. GK raises interesting questions as to the purpose and nature of modern war, and it does this all tastefully and artistically. You will not see any heavy-handed bashing of the audience over the head with poorly worded metaphors or cheesy political messages. There is definitely a theme in GK, but that theme can vary depend on who’s watching it and from what perspective. The only thing that the series seems to take a firm stance on is that the Iraqi invasion was poorly run and those in charge are to blame.
The action in the series is also quite good, showcasing some excellent shootouts, heavy artillery, and sniper battles. The only bad part about the action is that there isn’t too much of it in the first few episodes, and parts of these initial segments drag somewhat because of that. Most of the first few episodes are packed with exposition and endless military jargon, and while the dialogue is funny, it’s not Tarantino-caliber.
With that said, Generation Kill powers through on the hard questions it asks and how it asks them. Much like The Wire, Simon’s newest series is built around bigger-picture concepts and themes that it breaks down with artistic ease. The way it portrays its characters (other than perhaps the officers) is an impressive means to analyzing these themes. All in all, Generation Kill is a well made, intricately detailed essay on the invasion of Iraq, and retells an interesting and tumultuous period in recent world history.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Generation Kill features a great cast of characters played by talented actors, and offers thought-provoking analysis of global conflict and the meaning of modern war. This story plays to the backdrop of glorious location-photography and terrific action-sequences.
However… there are some pacing issues at the beginning of the series. Some of the cartoony officer personalities become distracting.
? So, when do we get the Afghanistan occupation show?