This Bank Holiday Monday night, the first episode of HBO’s follow-up to Band of Brothers, The Pacific airs on Sky Movies Premiere HD. The ten-part mini series is once again produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, but this time looks at the stories of the 1st Marine Division’s battles in the Pacific Theatre, as the United States entered the Second World War.
The first episode begins with archive clips of the attack on Pearl Harbour and the response by President Roosevelt, complete with a voiceover by Tom Hanks to set the scene. This is followed, just like Band of Brothers, with clips of interviews with some of the Marines whose stories will feature in the series. I’m sure that, like Band of Brothers, we won’t realise their identities until the last episode. Following a beautifully crafted title sequence, we’re into the episode itself.
Visually, The Pacific is epic in scale, and it’s battle scenes (with the first episode depicting the Battle of the Tenaru at Alligator Creek) are unflinchingly brutal, but it is the aftermath of the battles that are particularly harrowing.
We start in the United States in December 1941, just a week after Pearl Harbour. Young men are getting together, preparing for combat for the first time, saying goodbye to their friends and families, an important reminder of what they were leaving behind. But it’s not long before they’re brought to the Pacific, and the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, at the southernmost tip of the Japanese expansion, very close to Australia and therefore a key strategic location. It’s a quite astonishing sight, as the men make their way by boat to the shore, with warships firing and planes flying all around them. Again, like Band of Brothers, the production values are closer to that of a Hollywood motion picture than a television series. The scene builds to a climax, with the expectation of another sequence similar to the Normandy landings seen in Saving Private Ryan, but the reality of the landings at Guadalcanal were quite surprising.
Visually, The Pacific is epic in scale, and it’s battle scenes (with the first episode depicting the Battle of the Tenaru at Alligator Creek) are unflinchingly brutal, but it is the aftermath of the battles that are particularly harrowing. The first episode is well written, with some very good performances from a cast of largely unknown actors. Like Band of Brothers and its contemporary counterpart, Ed Burns and David Simon’s Generation Kill, it wasn’t especially easy to get to know all of the characters in this first hour, and was particularly difficult to identify them in the heat and confusion of battle, but from past experience I’m confident that I’ll be very familiar with all the main characters by the third hour.
Like all the best war films and series, The Pacific does not glorify war, but shows it for all its savagery, depravity and inhumanity, while still portraying individual heroes and acts of courage. After watching the first episode, I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.
The Pacific, Easter Monday 5th April at 9pm, Sky Movies Premiere HD