Created by: Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks || Written by: Erik Jendersen, Tom Hanks, John Orloff, E. Max Frye, Graham Yost, Bruce C. McKenna, Erik Bork
Starring: Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Matthew Settle, Donnie Wahlberg, Scott Grimes, Peter Youngblood Hills, Shane Taylor, Rick Gomez, Michael Cudlitz, Nicholas Aaron
No. Episodes: 10 (miniseries) || Running Time: 705 minutes (10 episodes)
What could you imagine as the perfect follow-up to Spielberg’s World War II masterpiece, Saving Private Ryan (1998, henceforth SPR)? I don’t think anybody could have come up with a television series as awesome as Band of Brothers (BoB), the fictionalization of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, also know as “Easy Company.” The miniseries follows this select group of paratroopers from jump-training to their drop into Nazi-occupied Europe to the end of the war. Rarely will you ever see filmmaking as gritty, intense, and real as this.
If you are familiar at all with the style of filmmaking and war-torn action of Spielberg’s SPR, then BoB will feel similar. It’s the same setting, a similar cast of soldier characters, and the story is focused on a similar ambitious goal: Take back the European front at all costs. Probably the two most welcome returning features from Spielberg’s feature film are the stellar character development and tenacious, visceral WWII action. Over the miniseries’ ten episodes and 705 minute running time, we get to know a plethora of soldiers inside and out. The most memorable character is Damian Lewis as protagonist Major Richard D. Winters, but all of the characters are well written.
As for the action, it’s unexpectedly intense and gets your heart pounding without fail in every set-piece. The variety of arms and armor, as well as the diverse landscapes and weather effects make for some unforgettable battles that hearken back to the D-Day scenes in SPR.
Another thing that helps BoB is how simple and focused its story is. We follow this one company of soldiers the entire time and never cut back to other groups or other settings. There are no distractions and no interference. It’s just Easy Company and only Easy Company. The magnifying lens is so disciplined that the character development becomes that much more impactful. It is a much different storytelling technique than what you find in BoB’s sister miniseries, The Pacific (2010), where the story followed multiple soldiers from different units across intersecting timelines. Altogether, BoB‘s storytelling efficiency and simplicity is one of its greatest strengths.
Spielberg’s epic miniseries is a great follow-up to his even more masterful WWII epic, SPR, but it’s certainly worth seeing even if this is your first introduction to Spielberg’s vision of WWII. The adventure isn’t quite as emotionally satisfying nor the camerawork quite as deft as SPR, but that’s really the only mark against it. All in all, it is great work of historical drama, and one of the great cinematic portrayals of human warfare.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Great cinematography and expert location-shooting make for some pulse-pounding thrills in this action-packed, European marathon. Television doesn’t get much more intense than here in Band of Brothers, with its heartfelt, personable crew of misfits and top-of-the-line telewriting.
—> Band of Brothers comes RECOMMENDED.
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