Complete Miniseries (HBO)
Airdate: Summer 2008
Debuting in the summer, David Simon and Ed Burns’ HBO miniseries was one of those shows that went largely without hype, a fact which shouldn’t surprise anyone after the previous year had seen a myriad of Iraq War films fail to capture the nation’s attention. Dramatizing reality has its benefits, but when it is reality that so often hits close to home there is often not enough distance to allow a show to capture a piece of the public eye.
Generation Kill felt too real to me by half, but this is perhaps what kept me most interested. With the same sense of character-driven storylines and a similar investigation into bureaucratic failures as their work on The Wire, Simon and Burns bring to life something that doesn’t need dramatizing: the consequences of the events seen within the series are today’s headlines, and the people they depict are not amalgams but individuals (one, even, played themselves in the miniseries).
What resulted was a wakeup call to how easily a situation like Iraq can happen: the mistakes made were in some cases driven by incompetence, in other cases by communication failures, but the miniseries’ main purpose is to place us in the middle of all of it to get a sense of what the people on the ground could do about it. As we become personally attached to the men in Bravo Company, we see that they could only do so much: with flawed strategies driving them, poorly trained reserve units botching their missions, and many of the soldiers there driven by the lust of gunfire more than the pride of searching for one’s country, Iraq becomes less a headline and more an experience that seems simultaneously very small and very large.
Based on Evan Wright’s best-selling novel of the same name, and released on DVD in December, Generation Kill will likely beat out a myriad of other potential Emmy nominees as the one I will campaign for most of all: strong performances, amazing production values, stunning direction, and assured writing deliver a miniseries that more people should experience.
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