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MORIARTY Reviews BAND OF BROTHERS: "Carentan"

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

Last night I had nuclear dreams. I had dreams of germ warfare in Los Angeles and other major cities. I had dreams of loved ones lost, of chaos, of a descent into widescale madness. Not even the best efforts of my girlfriend could soothe me, and I saw the sun gradually creep into my room, unable to close my eyes. It was the worst night I’ve had since Tuesday.

This afternoon, the images are finally starting to fade, replaced with a dull anger, a building rage that the solace of sleep itself has been stolen from me by the events in New York and Washington. As I read articles about our troops assembling in Pakistan or the weapons we plan to use in the conflict ahead, I am not relieved. Instead, the threat of a faceless enemy disturbs me on a very basic level. We are, in essence, shooting into the darkness, hoping to hit what we cannot see. What comfort is there in such a thought?

In the days since those planes went down, I have found myself too distracted to watch movies. Try as I might, I get impatient during the films I’ve put on. I get irritated at the things the characters find important, annoyed by the manufactured drama of things. It’s a strange sensation, and out of everything I’ve tried, only one thing has been able to hold my interest. Only one thing has rewarded my efforts. Only one thing has offered me the emotional release I needed. I’m speaking, of course, about HBO’s astonishing BAND OF BROTHERS.

Last week, I wrote only generally about the effect the first two episodes of the series had on me. Both “Corahee” and “Day Of Days” were well-made and well-acted, I thought, but it’s with this week’s episode “Carentan” that the series finally finds its legs and really hits its stride. The episode focuses on Prvt. Albert Blithe (Marc Warren) and his attempts to come to grips with the reality of war, and it also tells the story of Easy Company’s attempts to take the town of Carentan, France, an early strategic landmark. The fact that the show is able to balance both storylines with such nimble grace is but one small part of the miracle that is this ten-hour film.

Ironically, it was on Tuesday that HBO sent me an oversized envelope stuffed with the remaining eight episodes of the series, and at first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue watching them right now or not. What has ended up being so cathartic about the show, though, is the image of Americans fighting a war against an enemy they can identify, moving forward one hard-won victory at a time, pushing forward through France and Holland and Belgium and, finally, Germany. Yes, lives are lost, and you feel each one over the course of the series, but these men all volunteered, knowing full well that they could end up sacrificing themselves to a higher purpose, and that selflessness is magnificent to behold. Like the stories coming out of New York in the past few days, BAND OF BROTHERS is uplifting and ultimately healing because of the mix of naked humanity and pure heroism on display. I’m going to try to review each episode just before it airs, dividing the reviews into spoiler and non-spoiler material so you can get an idea of what to expect, then come back for in-depth conversation after the episode airs. Trust me... it’s worth in-depth conversation. When all is said and done, this may be one of the finest war movies ever made.

The episode opens with Blithe standing in a field on the edge of the French drop zone, looking up into the cloudy sky overhead as if unable to believe he fell from it. As he hooks back up with Easy Company, there’s a dazed, disconnected quality to Blithe. Many of the men are already falling into a rhythm, a mindset that will carry them through to the end of the war. Blithe can’t find that same groove, though. He’s shit-scared, unable to make sense of the circumstances around him, and as the company moves into Carentan, Blithe finds himself frozen, unable to act.

E. Max Frye has done a great job here of writing what could have been a cheap cliché, and turning into something real, something recognizable. Each episode of the series uses a different character to focus our attentions so we don’t get lost in the overwhelming details of the war. Blithe is perfectly chosen to anchor this particular episode. By making us witness these events through his point of view, Frye and director Mikael Solomon don’t allow us to become comfortable yet. They keep us as off-balance as the character, and the effect is one of almost unbearable tension.

Special mention must be made of the enormous contribution by cinematographers Joel Ransom and Remi (ELIZABETH) Adefarasin. Ransom shot this episode, and he and Adefarasin are alternating. Their work unifies the entire series, grounds it with an almost documentary approach that nevertheless finds the moments of poetry amidst the most horrifying of events. In this one, Ransom manages to convincingly paint a portrait of chaos, but he never lets the image become chaotic. It’s a delicate balancing act, and their collaboration with each of the directors who worked on the show has produced something greater than what we are used to on television.

And now to get down to a few spoilers. First, the work by Marc Warren as Blithe is exceptional. At one point, he is struck by a sudden case of hysterical blindness during a firefight, and it’s only when he is able to talk with Lt. Winters (Damian Lewis) that he snaps out of it. He’s still not able to bring himself to fight, though, and every time he is asked to face the enemy, Blithe crumbles. It’s Ronald Speirs (Matthew Settle) who finally lays it out for Blithe when the private confesses that he hid in a ditch during D-Day, afraid to fight. “We’re all afraid, Private. The difference is that you still have hope. You have to accept that you’re already dead. That’s the only way you can act like a soldier... without compassion, without mercy. It’s what we all have to do.” The moment where Blithe finally gains the courage to fight is searing, and there’s one image, one moment where Blithe is firing round after round and one casing snaps out of his rifle, spinning in the air in front of him, that took my breath away. It’s a perfect example of how this series takes small moments and gives them the weight of real life, how it takes the ordinary and makes it iconic.

What eventually happens to Blithe is heartbreaking, especially when you consider the timing of it. But life moves on. Easy Company moves on. And in the final moments of the episode, as the Company retreats to England for a brief respite before heading back out to France, there’s a scene with Malarkey (Scott Grimes) that crystallizes just how much has already been lost by this point, even as it underlines just how far there still is to go.

BAND OF BROTHERS airs every Sunday night at 9:00 PM on HBO and repeats throughout the week. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

"Moriarty" out.





Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 16, 2001, 5:43 p.m. CST

    First and I agree

    by sobek_hazid

    Yeah I'm first..whatever. Band of Brothers is named after Shakespeare, and for the first time a direvative title actual lives up to the original. "Nothing but a game" -S

  • Sept. 16, 2001, 6:35 p.m. CST

    pretty good

    by Madbomber

    Just got done watching this episode, and I was pleased to see that the show will take some chances. Don't get me wrong, I liked the first two hours, and I really don't think this one was any better than those, but it looked and felt very different than last week's episodes. It also looked like next week that a bunch of the guys we have come to know over the first few episodes will be leaving us already. Too bad...

  • Sept. 16, 2001, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Bug on HBO

    by Ambush Bug

    I have been an avid fan of HBO series for a while now. Oz, Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex in the City, and the classic Mr. Show with Bob and Dave (which deserves a special mention). Now we have Band of Brothers. So far, I think the series has been impressive. The war story has been a staple in movies forever, but Hanks and Speilberg have put together another tale of WWII worth watching. I don't really have a problem that the episode was run tonight, given the tragic events of the past week. I am against the pulling of Arny's Collateral Damage and other ways Hollywood has tried to deal with these acts of terror. What I do not understand is why they decided to hold off on the premieres of Mind of a Married Man and Curb Your Enthusiasm. THey ran the sneak preview on the night of the bombing. Mind of a Married Man was actually entertaining. I am not the biggest fan of Larry David's show, but a few conedies would be okay to watch after we see a war drama. Instead they are running X-Men, a sci-fi story about mutant terrorists attacking New York City. Why run Band of Brothers (a war drama) and not run a pair of comedies? It just doesn't make sense to me. Wouldn't it make more sense to hold off on BOB instead of pulling Mind and Curb? Listen, I don't think any should be pulled, but I don't understand why HBO did waht they did. Just venting. Love Band of Brothers. Keep it up HBO, but try to make a little sense with your programming next time. Bug out.

  • Sept. 16, 2001, 8:33 p.m. CST

    Bravo- B.O.B makes me proud yet again

    by soloh

    After reading some of the reviews that came out before HBO started this series I was nervous that maybe the writers and directors of each episode may have been off the mark in translating the book to the small-screen (and, not doubt, box set DVD ;) Guess they have, thankfully, proved me wrong. While the 1st 2 episodes where well done, they never hit me as hard as the 3rd episode. The above review summed up all the key points I was gonna make so I just wanted to say Thanks to all we made this series- looks like it will be yet another reminder that we have so many to Thank for our freedoms. My prayers and thoughts go out to all in these troubled times. Soloh out... PS- It is strange that Hbo ran a war series but cancelled their new comedies- guess that was because it would seem insulting to run a comedy when the country is still in mourning.

  • Sept. 16, 2001, 9:30 p.m. CST

    Like "Saving Private Ryan" this series is at its best...

    by crimsonrage

    ...during the scenes of combat, not because it's cool to see stuff get blowed up real good, but because it takes the established characters and does the most dramatic of things...it puts their lives in danger and puts them to the test. SPOILER........................... The way Blithe died was perfect, it didn't linger on sentiment, but it made his injury quick and surprising...just how death really is. You get the feeling that to the other soldiers he was just another unlucky bastard who got shot, which is the way it would really be.

  • Sept. 16, 2001, 9:42 p.m. CST

    A view from a kid.

    by mod29

    I am now 17 years of age. Going to turn 18 in two weeks. Obviously, we will not need a draft to fight whatever war is before us, I am still scared by the images I saw tonight. As I was scared by the first two episodes and Saving Private Ryan AND Thin Red Line. I am starting to realize the horrors of war, but still know that it is usually needed and helps in the end. I for one am glad for my grandfather ( a 82nd airborne WWII veteran ) and every other military veteran from any war... they fought for the freedom that my generation has come to love and keep. I know that we will still have it in the upcoming months and years. So thank you HBO, for making this wonderful mini-series and thank you to Hanks and Spielberg for assisting in letting our nation know what great military history it has. -Mod29

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 10:19 a.m. CST

    All I kept thinking...

    by jimimack

    ...was that it's a good thing Gen. Patton wasn't around during Blythe's breakdown, or he would have smacked him good with his riding gloves, and called him "Yellow."

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 11:51 a.m. CST

    crimsonrage.. Miss the little outro?

    by MilSF1

    Today's Monday, so I guess it isn't a spoiler anymore..... You might have missed the sentence at the end that stated that Blythe didn't die right away, he lived till '48, though he never recovered from his wound. Goes to show that real life can always be more poignant than anything dreamed up in the mind of a Hollywood writer. Sunday nights in my house belong to HBO :)

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 11:52 a.m. CST

    crimsonrage.. Miss the little outro?

    by MilSF1

    Today's Monday, so I guess it isn't a spoiler anymore..... You might have missed the sentence at the end that stated that Blythe didn't die right away, he lived till '48, though he never recovered from his wound. Goes to show that real life can always be more poignant than anything dreamed up in the mind of a Hollywood writer. Sunday nights in my house belong to HBO :)

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 11:56 a.m. CST

    Band of Brothers as Catharsis

    by Stepto

    I remember just before leaving for work 9/11 checking the news. It was about 7:00 CDT, just a few minutes prior to the first plane strike. There was nothing going on and I hit the shower then headed into work. It's about a 30 minute trip. It's just fucking unreal that in that 30 minutes my entire country changed. I'm 29. Too young for such trauma as Pearl Harbor, Korea, Kennedy, Vietnam. To my generation lies the greatest single sided victory in our country's history, and the greatest economy the country has ever known. Like every generation to which a traumatic event has occured, we viewed ourselves invincible. First our economy has severely contracted, if not collapsed, with our stock markets. Now this. I understand Moriarty's malaise. I've spent the entire week tuned into CNN, the only movie I was able to pop in this week and watch to completion was the new DVD of Ghandi. It didnt help at all in case you are wondering. It's simply too soon for deriving a message of healing and forgiveness from a movie like that. In fact it had almost the opposite effect, in reaching the end of that film it just accentuanted the point that mindless senseless animals will kill innocents for no other reason than their own glorification. Which is why I re-watched Band of Brothers in preparation for Sunday's episode. I think right about now I would just about drop on my knees begging for the rest of the series right now. From the first episode, where one veteran mentions that 4 men in his town commited suicide cause the army wouldn't let them volunteer, Band of Brothers is a catharsis for the American soul right now. Our inability to direct our hurt and our hatred is vicariously healed through the viewing of true stories about men who could, and did. Men who didnt kill for glory, didnt kill for even vengeance. They took action and they did their jobs for the country. They were human. They had their flaws and in those flaws we can see ourselves. What would we have done with those german prisoners in the first episode? I like to think we would not have killed them. But the fact that they were killed and the show has chosen not to let us know anything more than the fact they were killed is part of its brilliance. We're free to make our own determinations. (I personally hope the show never actually tells us what happened.) Blithe too represents the realism of the humanity of the men who went overseas. In many films we are shown WW2 vets grimly doing their jobs. Only recently I believe with Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers are we now being shown the more human elements of the psychological effects of war. There's a lot of people who state that the current events surrounding the viewing of a movie tend to color its quality beyond reality. Perhaps so. But doesnt that work both ways? Don't we all love a particular movie because it touched us during a period in our lives, regardless of the actual quality of the movie? I think Band of Brothers is an enormous accomplishment in its own right. But I also recommend anyone still shell shocked and hurting from tuesday to give it a viewing. HBO will most likely be running it 8 million times this week, bless them for that. I'd like to see them, in light of this tragedy, play all the episodes. But then again perhaps its better to just get it piece by piece. Regardless. Its good stuff. Another feather in the peacock's hat that HBO has now. S.

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 1:35 p.m. CST

    Grrr.. damn the back button!

    by MilSF1

    Sorry for the double post above. For those who were wondering to the Shakespeare mentioned in the first post. B.O.B comes from Henry V, Act. IV, Sc. III (the St. Crispin's Day speech). "This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember'd, We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition: And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day." I just saw the Branaugh version on IFC a few days ago. One of his better Shakespeare films IMHO.

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 6:22 p.m. CST

    Saving Private Ryan

    by tritium

    It's funny...I seem to recall every time Saving Private Ryan is mentioned in the Talk Backs of Ain't It Cool News, there is always a few (more than a few, actually) who complained about the overtly patriotic overtones of the bookends of the movie. At the beginning the 1st image we see is the Stars and Stripes blowing in the wind, almost ethereal, with the sunlight diffusing in from behind. Likewise, many people dismissed the ending. As you recall, the movie ends with the present day (old) Ryan, having returned to the Cemetery near Omaha Beach, saluting his fallen Captain...his family around for support, but they can never really understand. Anyway, may Talkbakers cited this as being just another overtly clumsy manipulation of the audiences'emotions by Spielberg. I wonder, given the recent events, if these people feel the same way about Spielberg's choices. I submit to you that it is not so easy to dismiss these scenes, now. I think Spielberg put them in there, not for the mass audience, but as tribute and homage to the living and dead veterens of America who did nothing less than help save the World (along with our allies). After the events of last Tuesday, I happened to put Saving Private Ryan into my DVD last night, and watched it with an entirely new appreciation and awe to the sacrifice of those young men. ...and the waving flag at the beginning...well, it brought tears to my eyes.

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 6:37 p.m. CST

    Off topic, but...

    by Smeg For Brains

    We have to remember that in the next few months, and even years, some drastic things will be happening, and we can't let our anger, rage, and overall ignorance let us do to some other innocent people what was done to us. America is at a turning point. Saddly, with our current leadership, I can't see it going any other way than that of the rest of the world hating us even more for slaughtering innocent people who had nothing to do with the attacks, and government controling our lives through unconstitutional new laws made possible by fear. A wise man once said... "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 7:02 p.m. CST

    Reply to Smeg for Brains

    by tritium

    Mr. Smeg: I have every confidence in President Bush, especially given the incredible talent and experience he has surrounded himself with (Dick Cheney, Colin Powell). Yes indeed, we need to be careful that we hit the right targets, and take out the terrorists as well as their supporters. Yes, there will be civilian casualties. But I will tell you this...there is no other country in the world that has spent so much in technological innovation, and the capability of peforming surgical strikes with precision munitions, that we ensure the harm to civilians or non-combatants is kept to the absolute minimum possible. Think back to WWII, Korea, or even Vietnam, were mass strategic bombings were required to take out a target. Sometimes a hundred bombers were required to destroy a single bridge. It is a strange irony, that thanks to our Technological Leadership, one attack plane can cause yeild more destruction on a specific target than a hundred bombers...while at the same time minimizing casualties to civilians. Do you think the Terrorists can say the same. Hell No...They specifically TARGET civilians. We are going to get them, and we are going to destroy them. This is War, and we have to understand that bad things are going to happen. The trick is, to have most of the bad things happen to the bad people...and not innocent men, women and CHILDREN. Don't get me wrong, I do not want, nor do I see our Government initiating an attack until we have the proper Intelligence, and the necessary preparation. The worst thing we could do would be to go bomb someone who is innocent. But remeber one thing about this War...it is not just Bin Laden or Al Qaida that we are going to go after. Every organized Terrorist group that has the capability of wreaking the kind of horror we have just been witness to is FAIR GAME. Or perhaps, you would prefer to sit back and wait until the next attack when they use Anthrax or chemical (or Radiological) weapons of mass destruction in our Heartland.

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 8:58 p.m. CST

    MilSF1

    by crimsonrage

    I said his injury was quick and surpising, not his death. But I probably should have phrased it better.

  • Sept. 17, 2001, 9:04 p.m. CST

    "best efforts of my girlfriend" eh? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, kn

    by Tall_Boy

    I bet she rocked your world. that would probably take your mind off it, Mori. GO BOY!

  • Sept. 18, 2001, 7:04 p.m. CST

    to tritium

    by Smeg For Brains

    I have to disagree. Bush has been surrounded by (and i say that because I doubt he has actually done anything himself in his entire life) tools of big oil (Cheney), and his fathers cronies, and he is without a doubt the least qualified man to be president in modern times. It is a fact that he was not actually elected within the system, losing the only election with any decisive conclusion (the popular vote), and being placed in office by Supreme Court Justices appointed by his father and Regan, amidst astounding acts of fraud commited by his brother's administration in Florida. He is nothing but a tool of the establishment, and any person who willingly gives up their constitutional rights to this human joke doesn't deserve the rights our ancestors fought for. In any situation our basic civil rights are more important than our short term safety. The patriotic thing to do is to face the possible dangers with our rights intact, rather than willingly hand them over to the people who allowed these events to happen. They had a hard time keeping known wanted terrorists from living in our country (possibly for years), training to fly commercial airliners on U.S. airforce bases, getting onboard flights using their real names (keep in mind they were known wanted terrorists), and hijacking said planes (which could have been prevented if the airlines weren't so greedy that they stopped putting armed sky-martials on the planes). You now trust these people to deal with this without slaughtering innocent civillians in countries having nothing to do with this? And ask the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civillians killed by American "smart bombs" how well we can limit civillian casualties.

  • Sept. 18, 2001, 9:55 p.m. CST

    Continuity errors reveal budget limitations?

    by Spaceman Spliff

    I'm so glad this series finally aired. I'd been waiting for so long, and I haven't been disappointed. Every time Easy finds itself in combat I am literally on the edge of my seat. I can't stand the idea that I might miss anything. And that may be why I've noticed a couple of things that I think show that Spielberg and Hanks stretched their budget to the absolute limit. In "Carentan" when the soldier who gets startled by the sheet in the clothesline fires a round into a shed, you don't see a bullet hole. Then when he fires his second you see two appear. I found this odd for people who pride themselves on their Cameron-esque perfectionism. Also, when the guy with the three Purple Hearts is ABOUT to give one to the bayonetee, you can see the one he's about to reach for look out of place all of a sudden, like it didn't get put back after the previous take. Normally I'm not that nitpicky, but I've been wondering how such a big budget TEN HOUR war movie could be made with so little money. Now I think I have my answer. They cut corners when they had to in order to splurge on the important stuff. Personally, I think it works.

  • Sept. 19, 2001, 8:16 a.m. CST

    Smeg for brains? Obliviously!

    by Ninja Nerd

    Sir, while I did not vote for Bush and was appalled at the thought of him for President, the fact remains that he IS the man behind the desk. As such, he is the CINC, period. If he falters, we will replace him, either next election or more abruptly via impeachment, etc. Until then, I support him EVEN I DISAGREE because that's part of being an American. I was a medic during VietNam. Nixon resigned before I separated and at the time, I was very disappointed in him; Presidents should be above things like Watergate or Iran-Contra. I came to realize that these are men, sometimes extraordinary, but still capable of human frailty. Our system CHOSE to have this method of leadership, so I support it and the office holder, whoever he or she is. Not criticizing you, Smeg; I think we should take it easy on other for a while...maybe it'll catch on. "First, do no harm" - Hippocrates.

  • Sept. 19, 2001, 5:58 p.m. CST

    I agree entirely, Moriarty -- the spinning case from Blythe's M1

    by Lt. Torello

    My only regret is we can't see this in theatres. All Americans should watch it. I don't say this lightly, and I'm not saying it's perfect in every respect (the ennobling music is sometimes a little syrupy for my ears), but now as we go through the biggest national crisis of our age, we NEED a show this good, this well-written, acted, and directed, that shows what SACRIFICE really means. With this and The Sopranos, HBO has a subscriber for life.