Watching this show I was often reminded of 'Band of Brothers', another show about the journey a group of soldiers make in times of war. But whereas 'Band' described the historic incidents that a company of soldiers witnessed in World War Two, we get a look here at a the slightly more boring side of war. Of course, 'Band' dealt with a company chosen by the writer for its historical importance. 'Generation Kill' was written by an embedded journalist who described what he saw to a group of Marines he happened to be assigned to. It's perhaps more realistic as a description of the everyday life of soldiers, certainly the professional soldiers of today.
There was plenty of action in 'Band' because they had four years of war to work through. In this show the action scenes - though very scary at times - are far and few between, as the war (against Saddam) only lasted a few weeks and these Marines didn't actually witness really historical events. So we get a lot of scenes of soldiers being bored and impatient. (Some professional soldiers may have joined because they want action and they feel bad when they don't get any. More experienced ones know better.) What I liked was the fact that the problems of this war (bad decisions, insufficient material, ...) were dealt with, but they weren't the main focus of the show, which can hardly be called a political pamphlet (except perhaps the final episode). Soldiers moan about the problems and get on with it. No, this was all about the soldiers. After all, some actual soldiers from the conflict were willing to play themselves. It wasn't always easy to identify all of them (why no name tags?), but in some cases you didn't care about the name of a character who made an interesting observation.
The production value was excellent: you could hardly tell this was filmed in South Africa. The dialogue was realistic, certainly a lot ruder than that of these soldiers' grandfathers in World War Two. I noticed something strange about the way I interpreted certain lines. At several moments a character said something that in an ordinary Hollywood film would have predicted his demise. (When in a cop movie a policeman says he has only twee weeks to retirement, you know he's going to die before the film is over.) Here, it's usually just a remark, not punctuated by a deadly grenade. The body count is pretty low in this show. Realism trumps Hollywood traditions.
Don't let the first episode with its multitude of characters turn you off this show.
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