8.8

The Pacific DVD Review

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<i>The Pacific</i> DVD Review

Directors: Tim Van Patten, David Nutter, Jeremy Podeswa, Graham Yost, Carl Franklin, Tony To
Writers: Bruce C. McKenna, George Pelecanos, Michelle Ashford, Robert Schenkkan, Graham Yost, Laurence Andries
Cinematographers: Remi Adefarasin, Stephen F. Windon
Starring: Joseph Mazzello, James Badge Dale, Jon Seda, Rami Malek, Gary Sweet, Annie Parisse, William Sadler, Ashton Holmes, Brendan Fletcher
Studio/Running Time: Home Box Office, 530 min.

A realistic look at the other side of WWII

Two scenes in The Pacific best sum up the entire series. After days of trudging through mud and bodies as Americans invade Okinawa during the last stages of World War II, the young, devout, bible reading Marine Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazello) is shooting a Japanese soldier—again and again. After ignoring his captain’s order to ceasefire he angrily replies “We’re here to kill Japs, aren’t we?!...I’d use my goddamn hands if I had to.” But later, upon finding a mortally wounded Japanese woman who pulls the barrel of Sledge’s gun to her own head, he compassionately cradles her as she dies in his arms. Such is the strength of The Pacific: the witnessing of both brutality and humanity on an almost incomprehensible scale.

The series follows three true-life Marines whose experiences bring us closer to the actualities of the war. Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) and John Basilone (Jon Seda) begin their tour on Guadalcanal while Sledge comes later after being diagnosed with a heart condition and cannot immediately enlist. The series features lesser-known actors, although Dale has recently emerged as the star of AMC’s drama Rubicon. As expected with the huge entourage of creative talent (six directors and six writers), the performances are never stale or repetitive. Mazello, whom you might recognize as the kid from Jurassic Park, especially surprises me as the series progresses. His transformation is pivotal to the drama and he plays the part with an amazing stamina.

Executive producers Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman—who also produced 2001’s HBO series Band of Brothers—brought us The Pacific, originally broadcast in the spring of 2010. Instead of Germans, the series focuses on a distinctly different opponent—the Japanese—fought on distant, remote islands in the South Pacific. Tom Hanks calls it “World War II, v 2.0.”

The extreme differences between the European campaign and the Pacific campaign make for two very distinct series. Though statistically more brutal than the battles in Europe, the American public generally knows less about the Pacific War. As a veteran Marines says in one of the extra features: “We had all given up that the story would ever be told—the real, true story.” Also, the back-home stories and psychological toll on the combatants are much more prevalent in The Pacific than in Band of Brothers. But there is a more-than-sufficient amount of action with the Battle of Iwo Jima containing the best-filmed battle sequence since Saving Private Ryan. The choreography of tanks, mortars, men and machine guns overwhelm the senses. Both series are excellent bookends for a realistic dramatization of the war.

The icing on the entire project is the superb musical score from Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer (Batman Begins, The Lion King, Gladiator).

When originally aired on HBO, each episode opened with a narration from Tom Hanks setting up the historical context of that night’s story supplemented with interviews of actual Marines. On the DVD menu, however, you’ll see a choice of “Play” or “Play with Historical Background”, the second choice implying that this is some sort of DVD extra. In reality, the “Historical Background” choice is for the original series episodes—definitely select this option.

The “Extras” include fascinating profiles on the actual men portrayed in the film, plus an insightful “Making of” piece and a short documentary called “The Anatomy of the Pacific War.”