Once upon a time there existed a great movie. Saving Private Ryan. Twas a magnificent spectacle to accurately portray the brutality of war and the travels of a soldier’s psyche when pushed to the limits of mankind. And it was loved. So gloriously that two men took their inspiration and created yet another unforgettable experience.
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg took their producing hands and gave us Band of Brothers. Based off a book by the same title, this 10 episode HBO mini-series followed E Company (“Easy Company”) of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. (It sounds like a bunch of technical mumbo-jambalaya to me, but I wanted to let you know out of respect for the actual men portrayed in Band of Brothers.) These men went through the worst of WWII. From the invasion of Normandy on D-Day to the overtaking of Hitler’s Eagle Nest in Germany and VE Day, they experienced every high and low point of the European campaign.
If you read the critic’s reviews, they complain of too many characters. Well get over it! In its simplified form, it’s a 10 hour movie. There are a lot of important characters and it’s easier to follow than those dimwitted “professional” reviews report it to be. Even if you forget their names, who cares? What’s important is that you recognize their faces and what emotions and turmoil bubble behind their eyes. Granted, Band of Brothers is a piece of art retelling the stories of just a few men who went through WWII…but I strongly believe this is as close as we’ll ever get to experiencing real war. I’m in no way a soldier and the only temptation I’ve had to join any American armed forced unit would be to take advantage of a steady guaranteed income and dig myself out of a lifetime of college debt. (Still tempted sometimes…)
I’m not trying to start a political debate whether our current soldiers are in a war or not nor am I saying that any other soldier’s sacrifice since WWII was any less meaningful, what I am saying though is that WWII was the last simplified war where a clear enemy presented itself and the outcome of the world’s fate was literally dependent on the victor. It’s the single most important recent war that we all take patriotic stock in. Every war since has the argument whether we had to participate or not and has been clouded by both the American public and the American government in the justification behind it. That’s why there are so many video games and movies with Nazi villains even though the war ended 65+ years ago! Everyone can get behind the killing of Hitler and his cronies.
Because it was a simplified war, there was no controversy and attention tied up after you pressed “play”. You already knew why these men had to fight and you already knew, and were thankful for, what the evident outcome was. All you had to do was to get behind what they were going through. I got teary eyed several times. There’s something about honor and sacrifice and being the hero that’s needed of you that gets to me. As strong as a man’s willpower might be our hearts are just as fragile. And Band of Brothers brings this truth out very well.