The Pacific: Showcasing "the bravery, patriotism, and determination of these Marines"

Christian Toto:

Japanese forces were pummeling U.S. troops for a spell, and it looked like the attack’s momentum would carry the Asian nation to even more military victories.

Each one-hour installment starts with a brief background on the action to follow. World War II veterans reminisce about their Pacific-based combat missions in interviews interconnected by The Pacific co-producer Tom Hanks’ stoic narration.

The series leans on a series of books for inspiration, including Helmet for My Pillow, With the Old Breed, Red Blood, Black Sand, and China Marine. But it’s clear the interviews with the aged Marines also impacted the finished product.

And each time we see those old soldiers on screen, still vital, still able to recall the minute details of their heroism, we marvel at the sacrifices they made on the country’s behalf.

If it’s a storytelling gimmick to kickstart each episode in documentary fashion, it’s a darn good one.

The connective thread involves three Marines — poet warrior Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), John Basilone (Jon Seda, one of the few “name” actors in the solid ensemble), and Eugene B. Sledge (Joe Mazzello).

The latter’s character proves to be the most involving, as he overcomes a heart murmur diagnosis to enlist against the wishes of his father. Once the bullets start flying, it’s hard to blame his dad for wishing his son were anywhere else but crawling through these nightmarish jungles.

Modern war movies don’t hold back on the bloodier aspects of combat, a trend unofficially cemented with Steven Spielberg’s 1998 epic Saving Private Ryan.

The Pacific continues in that vein without feeling exploitative or cheap. The carnage underscores the constant danger Marines faced as they poured onto battlefields already teeming with enemy soldiers.

Viewers will feel the concussive force of every mortar shell and sniper round, a visceral torrent nearly unmatched in modern war pictures.

The miniseries showcases the bravery, patriotism, and determination of these Marines, men left to fight — and die — with limited resources.

I watched the opening episode last night on HBO and look forward to the rest of the series.  Yet again, we are exposed to the heroics of a generation for which we owe our freedoms.  At the close of last night’s opening, I wondered emotionally at the courage of those who served then and who serve now.   We are in their debt and to state it so succinctly is to not say enough.

I encourage all to watch the series.  As I encourage all to then ponder the sacrifices made.  We take those sacrifices for granted. 

We do so at our peril.


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