Band of Brothers on DVD
By Jim Bray
An important historical drama, Tom Hanks and Steven
Spielbergs miniseries version of Stephen E. Ambroses book is as
honest a look as Hollywood can give at what it was like to be one of the heroes
of what has been called The Greatest Generation.
The HBO miniseries, not surprisingly considering the
Hanks/Spielberg connection, feels a lot like Saving Private Ryan, except that
its better - if only because its longer and gives the audience a
chance not only to get to know the characters better, but it prolongs the agony
through which these men willingly went so that we who follow wouldnt have
to. "Private Ryan only deals with D-Day and its aftermath, while Band of
Brothers covers a period of years, though it's mostly set in the months or
The story follows Easy Company of the Airborne, right from boot
camp to the end of the war. The grunts think they have it hard during basic
training, with its forced marches and perceived unfair treatment - but
its nothing compared with what theyre going to face when they
parachute into harms way in the wee hours of June 6, 1944. They, and the
bombers we dont get to see in this series, are there to assist the
massive invasion force thats about to land on the beaches of Normandy,
and then they're tasked with helping free the Western European countryside from
Its ugly, its brutal, its graphic - and yet
there are moments of surprising tenderness as we accompany Easy Company from
the United States to England, to Normandy and through the Battle of the Bulge,
the liberation of a concentration camp and the capture of Hitler's Eagle's
The ensemble cast is very good, and you can really feel the bond
between them as they march side by side into a hell they had no idea was
waiting for them, yet from which they can't turn away.
This is an important series and needs to be seen.
The attention to detail is remarkable; the filmmakers have
obviously done their best to be accurate, and it shows. If you want to find out
just how accurate, pay attention to the supplemental materials.
Visually, Band of Brothers resembles quite closely the look of
Private Ryan, with its washed out color that gives it a realistic
documentary look. The miniseries itself is presented in anamorphic widescreen,
16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is very good indeed. Audio is
presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, and the quality is frighteningly
excellent. The filmmakers put you right into the middle of the action with
their use of the surround and low frequency effects channels; the experience is
not only riveting, but draining; our reviewer could only watch two episodes at
a sitting because it was so intense.
The extras are just as good, for the most part. Best of them is an
80 minute documentary We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy
Company, a heart-wrenching feature that interviews survivors of the real
Easy Company (people played by actors in the series) and gives you their
historical perspective. These are ordinary men who as youths were forced by
circumstances to do extraordinary - and sometimes very nasty - things. They,
and their contemporaries, saved Western civilization for the next half century,
yet they remain ordinary men who never consider themselves to be the heroes
they really yare.
Theres also another good documentary, the half hour
Making of that gives some fascinating insight into the production
and the producers, and their burning desire to do it right.
Each disc also contains a synopsis of its episodes as well as a
field guide that gives historical perspective of events leading up to World War
II, maps, terminology guides, etc.
Band of Brothers should be required viewing in todays high
schools and colleges. Wed recommend it for younger viewers, except that
its so graphic.
Band of Brothers, from HBO Home Video
705 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
5.1 and DTS surround
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