Thursday, March 11, 2010

Diving into "The Pacific"

As a huge fan of the genre of war movies, I eagerly restored my HBO service in advance of Sunday, when the premiere of the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks miniseries "The Pacific" begins. If this is half as good as the last Spielberg/Hanks production on HBO -- 2001's "Band of Brothers" -- then we're in for something to remember.

Quick aside: This is the first time since "The Sopranos" that I've felt there was something on HBO to be a must-see, and I'm not expecting to be disappointed.

Just saw a report on CNN previewing the series. Hanks was asked if he feels the project will be a fitting tribute for the ever-dwindling numbers of surviving vets of the Pacific theater, and he said he hopes it will, given the authenticity the producers are vowing to convey to the audience.

Let's hope so. A brief preview of the series published in the March issue of Esquire warned of excessive dramatic music and a barrage of cliches.

"Band of Brothers" (a stepchild of 1998's "Saving Private Ryan") certainly did not lack for realism, taking us into the wartime lives of an entire company from their stateside training to V-E Day and beyond. "The Pacific" narrows the approach, focusing on three real-life soldiers. One is Eugene Sledge, played by Joe Mazzello (pictured above).

If you're a fan of military documentaries, Sledge's name will sound familiar -- his story was featured in Ken Burns' "The War." A native of Mobile, Ala. -- one of the four American towns on which Burns based his film -- Sledge's wartime memoirs, With the Old Breed, was part of the basis for "The Pacific." His harrowing and haunting memories of the savage and inhuman conditions at Peleliu and Okinawa -- in particular the gruesome fate of many Marines that fell into the hands of the Japanese -- are too graphic to be recounted here; we'll soon find out how authentic the producers were willing to go to tell a story that to a large degree has been historically overshadowed by films featuring the war in Europe.

Comparison to "Band of Brothers" are inevitable, but perhaps a fairer one would be to Clint Eastwood's 2006 "Letters from Iwo Jima" (a far-superior "sister film" to Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers," based on the outstanding book by James Bradley). "Letters" told the horrific story of that battle from the Japanese perspective and showed the hopelessness of their soldiers, who lived their last days in tunnels and caves knowing they were expected to die with honor for the Emperor.

Sixty-five years later, that war will enter our living rooms again beginning Sunday night. I'm feeling pretty good that Spielberg and Hanks will do it justice. The remaining Marines who did the fighting hope so, too.


An odd segue, I know, but the Mets just found out that shortstop Jose Reyes will be sidelined somewhere between two and eight weeks with an overactive thyroid gland. In all likelihood, Reyes will be on the disabled list along with Carlos Beltran when the Amazin's open the 2010 season April 5 against the Marlins at Citi Field. Not exactly a great way to turn the page following the forgettable end to last season. Doctors say the long-range prognosis is good, that Reyes' thyroid levels should return to normal with rest and diet (he isn't able to eat seafood, which contains iodine, which in turn affects the thyroid).

Let's hope the Mets aren't 10 games out by the time Reyes returns.

No comments: