Band of Brothers: Memories of Hell

THEY DEPENDED ON EACH OTHER. AND THE WORLD DEPENDED ON THEM.

bandofbrothersThe original quote from William Shakespeare’s “Henry V” is: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile”. As the soldiers of the Easy Company stand listening to a German colonel surrendering his men to U.S. forces sometime in 1945, none of them can’t help but feel that the speech could just as easily have been directed toward them. The scene plays out in the final episode of Band of Brothers, a miniseries about the special bond shared by those who join the armed forces – regardless of country.

July, 1942. The men of Easy Company gather at Camp Toccoa, Georgia for basic training. They are subsequently attached to the 101st Airborne Division. In 1944, Easy Company becomes part of the invading forces of D-Day, parachuting behind enemy lines in France. Their first objective is to help U.S. forces take the city of Carentan as a way of securing the Allies’ continued push toward Germany. From Carentan, Easy Company moves on to the Netherlands via Operation Market Garden that gives the Allies access to northern Germany. However, in December, 1944–January, 1945 the company is trapped in the Ardennes forest and the Battle of the Bulge when the Germans try to drive a wedge between the British and American forces in northern France. The bitter cold and grisly deaths continue as the Allies are pounded by Germans holding the town of Bastogne, and later when the 101st take the Belgian town of Foy. As the surviving soldiers of Easy Company leave the horrors of Bastogne behind them and move deeper into Germany they find revolting evidence of the Nazi race laws… as well as the spoils of war.

A look and feel of a motion picture
After making Saving Private Ryan (1998), Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks turned their attention to a TV adaptation of historian Stephen Ambrose’s literary depiction of the real-life Easy Company and their path from basic training to taking the Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany. Although the miniseries was made for HBO, its makers never made it as gruesome as Saving Private Ryan, but the cinematography is however true to the style created by that film’s DP, Janusz Kaminski – the stark portrayal of the men of the E Company has bleached colors and an admirably meticulous attention to the facts of their journey through Europe. Every episode either begins or ends with testimonies from the real survivors of the E Company, now old men, who convey their emotions of what was going on at various instances of the campaign. The miniseries has the look and feel of a motion picture; much of it portrays battles between the Germans and the Americans and those sequences are overwhelming in their intensity… and credibility, as the British Hatfield Aerodrome was expertly turned into bombed-out French hamlets. Personally, I found it difficult initially to commit to the E Company; had it not been for the technical qualities in the battle depictions, I might have found it harder to watch all ten episodes. Still, the characters of Winters och Nixon (Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston) who survive all the ordeals, not without psychological sacrifices, are interesting figures as well as some characters who make short-lived appearances, not least the officer who keeps disappearing whenever things get tough in the Ardennes forest.

Michael Kamen’s main title theme is emotional and so are the two final episodes of the series. Band of Brothers shows us Europeans how Americans viewed the continent they came to help liberate and much of it remains true today. Europe is heartbreakingly beautiful… but racism continues to linger beneath the surface.

Band of Brothers 2001-U.S.-Britain. Made for TV. 705 min. Color. Produced by Mary Richards, Erik Jendresen, Erik Bork. Directed by David Frankel, Mikael Salomon, Tom Hanks, David Leland, Richard Loncraine, David Nutter, Phil Alden Robinson, Tony To. Teleplay: Stephen Ambrose, Graham Yost, Erik Jendresen, Bruce C. McKenna, John Orloff. Book: Stephen Ambrose. Cinematography: Joel Ransom, Remi Adefarasin. Music: Michael Kamen. Cast: Damian Lewis (Richard Winters), Ron Livingston (Lewis Nixon), Scott Grimes (Donald Malarkey), Shane Taylor, Donnie Wahlberg, Peter Youngblood Hills… David Schwimmer, Simon Pegg, Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy.

Trivia: Originally shown in ten episodes. Hardy’s first onscreen role. Followed by another miniseries, The Pacific (2010).

Emmys: Outstanding Miniseries, Directing. Golden Globe: Best Miniseries.

Last word: “There were seven of us: Tom Hanks, Erik Bork (supervising producer), Graham Yost, myself, John Orloff, Max Frye, and Erik Jendresen (supervising producer). The heaviest lifting was done by the last five above: We called ourselves “The Band of Writers.” We all shared our scripts and research, so that as much as possible, the miniseries would have a seamless quality. We divvied up the writing according to the whims of Tony To (co-executive producer) and Tom Hanks. […] We started with Ambrose’s book, naturally. In addition, Erik Jendresen wrote a huge series “Bible” which distilled Easy Company’s experiences down to a manageable level, and painted portraits of the main characters in the Company. Then all of us sought out the men themselves and interviewed them. I spent four days with the Company at a reunion in Denver, then hundreds of hours on the phone with them over the course of writing my scripts (I was hired to rewrite episodes four and eight). For episode six I interviewed Army medics and doctors about their experiences in general, and at Bastogne in particular.” (McKenna, FilmJerk.com)

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