Easy Company’s Hard Times
by Susan King, Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2001
HBO’s ‘Band of Brothers’ miniseries re-creates the bonds forged in a unit of American GIs during bloody European fighting in World War II.
HOLLYWOOD — It’s hard not to be struck by the silence when watching Tom Hanks’ war, as played in the 10-part HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” which begins Sunday.
Although millions were spent in filming the series, which aims to capture the three-year odyssey of the U.S. paratroopers of Easy Company up to and through D-day and on to the ultimate defeat of the Germans in World War II, the result is a study in how powerful restraint can be. Shot from the point of view of a fighting man, “Band of Brothers” puts one in the trenches, in the chaos and often in the silence of war.
“Band of Brothers” feels real in the watching. It sounds real. There are scenes, long ones, in which all that is heard is the crunch of boots on grass at a run, at a walk, at a crawl. Even scenes of intense combat — explosions wounding the night sky — have moments that capture the fear, the labored breathing, the sheer terror, the absolute helplessness of the men of Easy Company. Even the cinematic style is muted, colors stripped of the kind of intensity that could have left some of the raw battlefield footage awash in Technicolor red.
Hanks cut his teeth on WWII stories and the horrific realities of D-day in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” which earned him his fourth Oscar nomination. (Spielberg, with Hanks, serves as an executive producer of the miniseries.) In researching the movie role, a story in Studs Terkel’s book, “The Good War” stayed with him.
“There was one interview in it with a guy who ended up in the third wave of D-day, and for 100 days he did nothing but fight for 100 days,” Hanks recalls. “He was on the front line. He said, ‘That means I didn’t take a shower, I didn’t get more than 20 minutes’ sleep at a time for 100 days.’ I thought this was extraordinary.”
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