The Pacific: Review of Episodes 1 & 2

The Pacific Epidsode 1 & 2As promised in that other post, I’ve written a review of the first two parts of The Pacific, the HBO mini series following three marines through the Pacific theatre of World War II. Executive producer Tom Hanks narrates the opening of each episode which features original footage and maps. We also get to hear from the veterans themselves, as they describe in their own words what they were thinking or what they knew going into the war. Unlike the companion series Band of Brothers, The Pacific wastes no time jumping into the action. We catch up with the troops just before they’re about to ship off, as they’re taking in Christmas and saying their goodbye’s. In the first two episodes we’re introduced to the three main characters: Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge, the latter is unable to join up due to a heart murmur. In the first episode Leckie and the 1st Marines land on Guadalcanal, one of the Soloman Islands with an airfield in striking distance of supply lines to Australia.

Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention but amidst the dialogue I seem not to grasp the reason for their movements on the island. They move from one position to the next, but then that division took the airfield even though the Japanese have the island surrounded. Now a defensive line is being set up along a creek… I understand that the fight for Guadalcanal was long and complex and that the troops themselves weren’t always sure as to why they were taking that position but I found Band of Brothers did a good job of providing understandable military context (even to a layman). I have to say, in the first two episodes the Japanese don’t seem like very formidable opponents, which is in stark contrast to their reputation from that era as deadly and resolute warriors. Supposedly the defense of Alligator creek (the creek mentioned earlier) marked a turning point and showed that the Japanese were not invincible.

In the second episode John Basilone and the 7th Marines are sent to bolster the defense of  the airstrip on Guadalcanal. Part two is brutal, you get a view of what the soldiers put up with when they’re not getting shot at: rice with bugs, air raids and military radio. We see a lot more fighting, Basilone becomes a one man wrecking crew, crossing enemy lines to get ammunition, keeping multiple machine guns running (he gets third degree burns moving one to another position), mowing down Japanese troops, clearing the field of said troops under fire and taking one or the other unlucky enemies down in close shoot-outs. Watching the mayhem you forget that this is a true story based on a real person, of course the action is compressed into a shorter time span but it is nonetheless a a major feat. Marines stealing from the fresh army grunts provides some comic relief in this heavy episode and the tired and sick 1st Marine Regiment is finally evacuated and given a hard earned cup of joe. Despite the confusion (or my lack of concentration) the first two episodes are hard hitting and enjoyable, it’s probably a good idea not to get too hung up on the tactics and just follow the characters and their story. By the way there is a great deal of extra video on the HBO website, with interviews of the veterans, their kin, as well as executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Check it out.

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  1. Jimbo

     /  April 15, 2010

    Had a hard time following all action as well, probably best to just sit back, and enjoy :)

  1. The Pacific: Review of Episodes 3 & 4 | Film Reviews, Previews, News & More -

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