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MORIARTY Reviews BAND OF BROTHERS: "Crossroads"

Published at: Sept. 30, 2001, 6:53 p.m. CST by staff

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

Tonight’s episode of the ambitious BAND OF BROTHERS finally clarifies something, and with this clarification, the true shape of the show snaps into place. It’s a crucial episode for the series, and it’s got the perfect title. “Crossroads.” Indeed.

Credit Erik Jendresen with this smart, mature script, and Tom Hanks with the sure directorial hand that perfectly brings the material to life. Neither of their efforts would matter, though, if not for the work by Damien Lewis, who finally steps forward tonight to claim BAND OF BROTHERS as his show. He’s the star, and tonight proves it.

The show opens, as it does each week, with images of the real survivors talking about Winters, the character Lewis plays. The real Winters is in there somewhere, so try and guess which one he is. The men all talk about leadership and what made Winters a great leader. The episode then delves deep into the heart of this guy to show us what they’re talking about, and in doing so, achieves greatness.

The first images of the show are chaotic, disorienting. We’re running. We’re in a field somewhere. We get a glimpse of Winters’ face. Suddenly he crests a hill and freezes. A boy in a German uniform turns, startled, and there’s a long silent moment as they stare each other down, broken when Winters shoots the boy in the chest.

That’s a key image, one we return to later in the episode. Overall, this entry in the series makes very sophisticated use of time, flashing forwards and back, using memories to help fill in what’s going on inside Winters. When we cut to him, thinking about that field and that German boy, it’s dawn. He’s been awake, and he has to get Nixon (Ron Livingston) up for a briefing. The relationship between these two men is the heart of the series, and anytime Winter is the center of an episode, that means we get a lot more Nixon than normal, too. Lewis and Livingston both are primed for stardom, and their work in this show suggests that they are more than capable. In particular, I like the way Nixon’s drinking becomes a more pronounced problem over the course of the show. There was a sort of Dick Powell-THIN MAN-charming drunk quality to Nixon at first, but now we see him revealed as a man who uses alcohol as a crutch, who stays drunk as a way of coping with the madness of the world around him.

Basically, Winters is feeling marginalized, squeezed out of the real war in favor of inventories and reports and paperwork. These are all signs of responsibility, but that doesn’t make it any easier for Winters to sit on the sidelines while other people, like the unlucky Prvt. Alley, are killed on the front lines.

The first third of the episode features Winters trying to type up a report on a patrol he was in charge of, with the patrol itself intercut. It’s done with real grace and economy, a testament to the sure hand Hanks has developed as a director. I’m dying to see him tackle more feature work. He’s got taste and intelligence behind the camera, always a welcome combination.

When we see Winters in the field, there’s no question as to why he’s become a leader. There’s something very natural in the way he works with his troops. What begins as a tense, terrifying night raid becomes a long next day as Easy Company digs in and assaults a Dutch dike. When we see the assualt, death and injury are immediate and visceral. When Winters is typing up his report, we can see how hard it is for him to boil things down to a matter of accounting. These were men he knew, more than just casualty lists on a page.

Finally, things loop back to that opening moment, Winters and the German kid, and we see that he doesn’t just shoot that one kid. He must kill a dozen Germans before the rest of Easy shows up to support him. The resulting scene is harrowing, and in the midst of it, there’s Winters, moving through it all, untouchable, like he’s blessed. There’s a calm about him, about the way he handles himself in battle, and he’s always got a moment to help one of his men, to inspire them, to back them up. He’s not just good during battle, either. Afterwards, as they clean up from what’s happened, Winters is just as skilled. He is able to help them deal with what’s happened. He gives his full attention to each detail around him... the taking of prisoners, tending to the wounded, reporting back to the battalion. In this case, he does so well that he is named Executive Officer of the 2nd Battalion, a major promotion.

And that’s how he finds himself sitting behind a typewriter, working on a report, while the men of Easy Company go take part in Operation Pegasus. We don’t get to see the operation because Winters doesn’t, and we can feel his frustration, his need to be out there in the middle of it. He hates the idea of sending men to do something he doesn’t go do himself. It’s literally driving him crazy, and when there’s an unexpected tragedy and an unscheduled lull in the war, Winters is sent on leave to Paris to try and find some peace.

It’s a good idea, but it doesn’t work. Winters is a soldier now, not a civilian, and he doesn’t fit in regular quiet French life. He’s restless to get back to the front as soon as he arrives in Paris, and he seems unable to relax. The only luxury that seems to bring him any solace is a hot bath and dead silence. When he does return to his men, he’s just in time. They are ordered to move out for an unknown origin. They’re ill-prepared, with limited ammo and no cold weather clothing.

The last few sequences of the episode are chilling, no pun intended. They arrive in Bastongne, Belgium, where another battalion has just been battered and is pulling out. These retreating soldiers look like they’ve glimpsed Hell, like they’re the walking dead. To have to march into whatever they’re leaving behind seems like madness, but Winters and his men never hesitate. Look quickly for Jimmy Fallon in these scenes as a supply officer trying to help out. He and Winters have one quick, telling exchange:

”Panzer division’s going to cut the road south. Looks like you boys are going to be surrounded.”

”We’re paratroopers, lieutenant. We’re supposed to be surrounded.”

Finally, back in command of his men, Winters moves them out, setting the stage for the next two episodes, the most nightmarish of the series. That last shot of them heading off into the darkness, punctuated only by occasionally distant explosions, is terribly sad, and speaks again to the great character of the men this series is about.

If you’re at all interested in this series, you must see this episode. It premieres tonight on HBO at 9:00, and will be repeated throughout the week.

"Moriarty" out.





Readers Talkback

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  • Sept. 30, 2001, 6:57 p.m. CST

    Yep.

    by Gary Yogurt

    (See topic.)

  • Sept. 30, 2001, 8:15 p.m. CST

    yup... (sips beer)

    by haywire

    Good thing about cable is the nonstop repeats. It was either this or Alias, and this is gonna be easier to catch later.

  • Sept. 30, 2001, 8:59 p.m. CST

    bravo

    by whiteboyrage

    I must say, Mr Moriarty, that you are easily the best reviewer on the site (perhaps the best in print, such as it is?). Everyone here constantly falls victim to tongue in cheek, self-referential slapstick and pompous, self-important fanboy complaining. This review is not just a summary of the episode but an in-depth analysis of the characters, the situations and of course it never fails to give everything all important context. Not to sound like too much of a fawning kiss-ass, but you are the last reason that I read this site. I must say, however that the sound on the main page is really starting to grate on my nerves.

  • Sept. 30, 2001, 9:50 p.m. CST

    Band of Brothers 5 EP Marathon tonight!

    by gc3

    There will be a marathon of the first 5 episodes of Band of Brothers tonight (10-1-01) starting at 8PM EST on HBO. GC The Jessica Steen Page http://www.jessicasteen.com/

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 2:58 a.m. CST

    A dutch dyke?

    by Cruzi

    EZ Company assaults a dyke? Now that would be worth subscribing to HBO for...I wonder if it was graphic like on 6 feet under--did they show the guy from "Office Space" with the dyke bent over a car in a parking garage? Maybe Ross attacked her from the front. Atten-Hut! Assaulting Dyke, sir!

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 5:15 a.m. CST

    The Only way to watch this show

    by Dr Dave

    I have to watch these episodes on Sun PM. Seeing these in letterbox with Dolby Digital reveals the true cinematic nature of the filmwork. Full screen through lousy TV speakers just won't cut it anymore.

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 6:37 a.m. CST

    Just about the best series ever.

    by Zubalove

    And, by the way, great review Moriarty. You and Lexy Dupont are easily the best writers on this site and its always a pleasure to read your stylish, analytical approach. As for this series, what can I say that hasn't been said already? I am already a fan of Winters and Nixon. When I watch I'm always looking forward to the next scene with Nixon just because the guys got a great presence. I hope this becomes a big stepping stone for both these actors, whatever their names are. If anyone is going to watch the five episodes tonight, pay attention to how they treat the Germans they capture (and those they decide not to capture). Enjoy this one. Zubalove out.

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 7:08 a.m. CST

    Definitley a good show

    by ArchDiver

    and I liked last nite's ep, but it felt uneven to me. Kind of like they had the acts switched around. Maybe if I hadn't been doing laundry at the same time... AD out.

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 9:04 a.m. CST

    The final five minutes are a heartbreaker...

    by Lt. Torello

    ...as we know what Easy Company doesn't -- they're about to go into the meatgrinder of the Battle of the Bulge. I haven't had the priviledge of getting advance review tapes of the show (like Moriarty has) but if they present this, the most intense battle of the ETO, with the same brilliant writing, direction, acting, and documentary-like second unit work as the previous shows, those of us who've really studied WWII will finally see the no-bullshit account of The Bulge we've long waited for. The '65 movie version was pure crap (despite a cool cast). This and "Buffy" (seriously) are the only two shows I care about right now. Currahee!

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 9:59 a.m. CST

    Captain Winters life before the war....

    by Badger Of Chaos

    There were references made to this in the first two episodes. I realize that its not being emphasized as much (as in Saving Private Ryan), because of the progression of the series. When Winters first became Easy company's CO, the men were curious, but not to any major degree. Most were just thankful that it wasn't Sobel taking them into battle. After a time, the men truly came to respect Winters. He was a good leader, he took care of his men. They didn't care what he did before all of this started. However, it seems to me, after this very Winters-centric episode, that his life before the war plays a significant part of the person we've come to know. All of these soldiers had lives before the war, but they didn't leave them behind completely to go fight for their country. We're talking about students, teachers, accountants, fathers, sons, men and boys from every walk of life.... the may have left their homes, family, and friends, but they took part of their lives with them into the war. I see this in Winters. I do not know what he did before the war, and I also have not read Ambrose's book. But I have come to see Winters as a man of faith. Possibly a man of religion. A priest or a pastor. Winters, to me, shows that mentality. - "I'm not a Quaker"

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 10:17 a.m. CST

    Badger of Chaos...

    by crimsonrage

    ...Interesting observation. More evidence to support your theory: The guy never cusses (unless you count "crap"), now this doesn't mean that men of faith don't cuss, or that men not of faith do cuss, but the implications that he answers to a higher power in his conduct are definitely there. Also he suggests that that dude from "Office Space" should stop drinking.

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 11:56 a.m. CST

    Crimson, another observation...

    by Badger Of Chaos

    In "Crossroads", in Winters dialogue with Nixon with regards to his drinking, he reiterates a line of Nixon's but excludes taking the lord name in vain. From "For God's sake" to "For Pete's sake." That was one of the key moments that has led me to my idea, and convinced me to write all this...

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 3:45 p.m. CST

    Captain Winter before War

    by BigFire

    The lack of drinking and cussing might be due to where he was brought up from. As stated in the book, Winters grew up in Lancaster County PA, Amish country. He attended community college before enlisting and joining the Officer Candidate School, and becoming a platoon Lt. for Easy Company. Lewis Nixon by comparison is from a completely different background. He is from a wealthy family in New York, traveled extensively around the world before going to Yales, and enlisting. I sincerly hope that there an incident towards the end of the war that HBO include in episode 10. The part about the discovery of a great cache of best booze in Europe by a non-drinking Winters, who let Nixon take care of redistribution.

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 8:38 p.m. CST

    Moriarty, PLEASE read this

    by BrianTT

    Sir, I read everything you write. I think you're one of the better critics on the net. While, I don't agree with everything you write I usually respect it but I feel you made a HUGE mistake this week and I want to point out it out as a constructive criticism so maybe you'll think about your perspective on the show before you write. I know, from your first review, you've seen all 10 episodes already. You know what we do not about the next 5 episodes. By mentioning that Winters was in the opening "testimonials", you may not have realized what you were giving away. Now we know he lives. Sure, it was likely considering he's had some scenes relatively alone (only stuff we would know if he was still alive) but Steven and Tom have admiteed some dramatic license. There's a reason, Steven and Tom chose not to tell who the veterans at the beginning are. So we're unsure of what will follow. And, in a small way, you ruined part of that. So, I don't mean to be rude but consider how your perspective of the show is different before you write or I'll just have to wait until ep. 10 and come back and read them all at the end.

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 9:38 p.m. CST

    by Willups Brighton

    In the opening of Episode 5, one of the guys says, "I don't know how [Winters] survived, but he did."

  • Oct. 1, 2001, 11:28 p.m. CST

    BrianTT...

    by crimsonrage

    ...I agree. I was disappointed that Moriarty did that. Was there a spoiler warning beforehand (you know sometimes AICN puts tiny red spoiler warnings on the main page right by an article, and I never seem to acknowledge their presence until it's too late)?

  • Oct. 2, 2001, 10:04 a.m. CST

    Like the review, love the show, gotta say though...

    by mizuke

    ... what in the hell is up with that iron monkey ad that keeps flying past my screen every time I open up the main AICN page? Is that shit annoying, or what? I can't even access a link until it's finally through cavorting across the page and then it trails around (generally right where I want to click, no less) for another 20 seconds until it finally dissappears. I'm all for Internet advertising but COME ON!! That shit just makes me want to chuck a "Potatoe Masher" through my computer screen.

  • Oct. 2, 2001, 1:01 p.m. CST

    HBO is obviously......

    by Coolhand Luke

    the best channel out there. From Band of Brothers, The Sopranos, From Earth to the Moon, Oz, Six Feet Under and to a lesser extent Arli$ and Sex in the City, they have set themselves apart from the rest of the crappy shows that are on TV now. I've never been as moved by a TV show as I have been from watching Band of Brothers. Bravo HBO! And shame on the Emmy people if they don't get their act together and start rewarding the superb HBO shows.

  • Oct. 2, 2001, 7:32 p.m. CST

    Band of Brothers on DVD?

    by ZIFE

  • Oct. 2, 2001, 7:36 p.m. CST

    Band of Brothers on DVD?

    by ZIFE

    Quick questions for you folks, is the show coming on DVD any time show, because I dont get HBO, I live in Canada and we dont get any real good American channels, except for TBS, and some crap know as UPN!

  • Oct. 2, 2001, 10:11 p.m. CST

    BoB in Canada

    by acaana

    Actually, we do get it in Canada. BoB is being played on the new Movie Central station on Tuesday nights, mostly. Pretty erratic schedule that started on Sunday night for the premiere and now seems to be Tuesdays and sometimes repeated on Fridays. While on the topic of great HBO films though... anyone else see 'Conspiracy' with Kenneth Branagh as Heydrich and Stanley Tucci as Eichmann in the true story of the meeting to decide the "Final Solution"? Totally captivating stuff.

  • Oct. 4, 2001, 7:03 p.m. CST

    Winters' faith

    by Boba_Fett

    I too think Winters is a man of faith, probably a Christian. It popped out for me when he changed Nixon's line to Pete's sake, and I thought about it....have I ever heard this guy swear or do anything that was really wrong? Not that I can remember. This only makes me respect the character and the man more. -Fett

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