World War II stories provide a thread that is weaved throughout our Washington, DC Education Programs. This in turn spurs on our Education Program Leaders (EPL) to search out resources to help build their understanding of this era and also to add stories to their repertoire. HBO’s mini-series, , was reviewed by two EPLs – Julie and Andrew. Together their perspectives provide a comprehensive overview of this series.
*Warning spoilers ahead*
Overview of Miniseries
The HBO series Band of Brothers has to be the finest “boots on the ground” military films ever produced. The research, writing and filmography are second to none. Producers, directors and actors took Stephen Ambrose’s book by the same name and produced a film that not only captured the events leading up to the D-Day invasion up to the end of the war through the eyes of Easy Company, but also gave us an up-close, intimate look at the men in the Company. We experienced the deep down emotions of the soldiers as they endured events beyond a regular person’s experience. The film gave us the overall picture of soldiers fighting for freedom in a foreign land. “What are we fighting for”? was a common phrase—until late in the series, the horrific discovery of the concentration camp at Dachau outside of Munich made it abundantly clear. -Julie
In an age of mind-numbingly pandemic entertainment, full of fictional zombie apocalypses and plot-less action, the critically acclaimed World War II mini-series, Band of Brothers, slaps viewers out of their mindless slumber. It awakens them to the realities and complexities of life before, during and after World War II. In stark contrast to this modern age of sensationalistic news and reality TV rubbish ruling the airwaves and internet, Band of Brothers pins viewers in their seats with award-winning storytelling and cinematography that is filled with all the complexities and emotions brought about by a world at war. -Andrew
Each of the 10 episodes in Band of Brothers emphasizes the story of a different Easy Company soldier. During the Battle of the Bulge, for example, the series focuses in on “doc” Roe and his battle to save lives while almost completely surrounded. David Webster in the episode, The Last Patrol, struggles with re-acclimating to life with his comrades as the war draws to a close. Besides the individual soldiers emphasized in each episode, Band of Brothers further tracks with key characters such as Richard Winters and his alcoholic best friend, Lewis Nixon, for the duration of the series. This high powered focus on a select few soldiers connects viewers emotionally with the fears, despair, courage and camaraderie that are only experienced through the horrors of combat.
Band of Brothers straps viewers into their seats and takes them on a vast journey, unlike modern dramas with little plot development and a buildup that leaves their audience on a
fabricated cliff-hanger. With the storytelling focus on individual soldiers, the viewer experiences the sensation of the plot moving forward as each individual story ties into the on-marching grand narrative of the war. The tempo and scope of the series goes from intimate conversations between two buddies in a fox hole to full blown explosive scenes of war in an instant. These contrasts in filmography and storytelling serve to emphasize each moment, each scene, and each conversation that takes place in the series. -Andrew
The style of filmography had a tremendous effect on the realism of the series. This technique puts the audience right smack in the middle of the fighting. The camera moves unsteadily with the action at ground level, which adds to the intensity of the scene. It was first used in Saving Private Ryan, produced also in part by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. -Julie
Accuracy of Film
Understand that Band of Brothers reveals the turmoil and horror of war for those men in who fought in battle. It also, and more importantly, portrays the emotions and complexities of life for soldiers in the buildup to and aftermath of battle. The series is honest in its depictions of battles, death, sorrow and grief. Due to the frequency of strong language and violent images, viewer discretion is advised.
That said, those looking for a realistic depiction of what the greatest generation did for the United States of America and the world, need look any further than the non-fabricated, real-life stories presented in this series. For those ready to experience their sacrifice, Band of Brothers returns viewers to a world and time very different from today. -Andrew
The mini-series ends with Major Richard Winters and what is left of Easy Company at Hitler’s mountain retreat, “the Eagle’s Nest”, drinking Hitler’s wine. That is my daughter Sarah’s favorite scene. “It says something about having a job to do and getting it done”, she says.
Sarah and her husband, Tony, share a little something with Easy Company as they both deployed with the 101st to Iraq back in 2007. They both agreed that the film was certainly accurate and realistic in all aspects. Especially, the combat scenes as Tony has been involved in several fire fights while in combat.
Even those not interested in studying military history would enjoy Band of Brothers. Its story is compelling. The soldiers are believable and connect with the audience. Lastly, the story is true. It draws the audience into the mission of every American soldier fighting for freedom in Europe. -Julie