Friday, August 29, 2008

Generation Kill

Generation Kill is, like Band of Brothers before it, an HBO miniseries about a war based on a book. It was produced and written by Ed Burns and David Simon, who created The Wire. So it has a strong pedigree. It doesn't quite live up to either aspect of its background, but it is still an interesting look at a war we're still fighting, sorta. Kill is about the first two months of our invasion of Iraq, as a Rolling Stone writer (based on the book's author) joins a recon division of the Marines and documents what he sees and hears. Like Brothers, it's more about the men doing the fighting than the act of fighting itself, although the tone is quite different, as can be expected. Brothers looks up at the heroes of the 101st Airborne with great reverence, fawning over their dignity, bravery, and youthful camaraderie. Kill makes a point of showing what horrifying freaks all of our boys overseas are. There are good men to be found, but most are either goof-offs, incompetent morons, or violent psychopaths. What's interesting to me is that they're all based on real people, although the ones portrayed negatively often claim that what they're shown doing wrong is fictional.

There's a large cast of characters, but the focus is on the guys in the same jeep as the reporter. The two guys in the front seat probably get the most screen time of anyone, one being the cool and experienced career soldier, the other the comic relief driver played by Ziggy from The Wire. I didn't buy the latter as a marine at first, but in time I accepted them as an entertaining duo that the rest of the series balanced on. The platoon spends a lot of time driving to the next location and generally just killing time, waiting for their gravel-voiced commander to get them a mission somewhere. They do a lot of singing of popular songs and spreading rumors about things back home. You get a feel for their frustration as circumstances cause them to become secondary to the invasion effort, and they get antsy for any action at all. There's also strife as several of the squad leaders prove to be bad at their job, and some soldiers become too trigger-happy with the innocent locals. It's a show about a war, but like many war stories, the battles aren't their biggest worry. Not that the battles aren't well done, when they happen. Their suitably visceral, although they're not as exciting when there are so few casualties suffered by the good guys. It's only seven episodes long, and is very narrow in its focus. But what it does decide to say, it says fairly well.

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