Published on October 27th, 2008 | by Chris2
Generation Kill (2008)
I finally got around to watching all my DVR'd episodes of HBO's Generation Kill, based on the writings of Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright about his embedding with the 1st Marine Recon Battalion in the first days of the Iraq invasion.
I have to say, Generation Kill is a great look at the ins-and-outs of modern warfare, and the people fighting it. In the seven part mini-series, which starts just before the invasion, and ends shortly after the fall of Baghdad, 1st Recon gets to experience the horrors of war, but mostly, they get to be a part of the cluster-f--k that was (and still is) Iraq. Between the 'what are we doing here' angle, the internal politics of modern war are explored in great detail, from those in the squads, all the way up the chain of command.
First off, this is no "Band of Brothers." Let's just get that out of the way right now. The guys here aren't given particularly high marks in their portrayal. But lets face it, if you've been around a representative gang of guys like you'd find here.... It's pretty damn close to the mark. But what they're doing is not meant as any sort of tribute like BoB was.
From the wise-cracking Ray (James Ransone), the cool-under-pressure "Iceman" Brad (Alexander Skarsgard), the reporter (Lee Tergesen), to the average guys, including the level-heading Lt. Fick (Stark Sands). These guys were just great at making me believe it. All of them, with few exceptions. Yeah sure at times Ray's character was a bit scripted and over the top, but the quirks and personalities given to each one of them were just brilliant. Although I must admit to being a little skeptical of the characters in the first episode. Thankfully they wound up mostly developed by the end. You will recognize people you know in these characters.
Then you go all the way up to the sad but accurate portrayals of the Rambo-wanna-be "Captain America" er, I mean McGraw (Eric Nenninger), the southern-accented "Marine Lingo" spewing Sarge, and the odd character of the by-the-book Col. "Godfather" (Chance Kelly)... I'm not sure why the higher-up officers were portrayed in such a negative light. (Maybe its not that far off the mark?) Really the only one who seemed to have his shit together was Fick, and thank god we have guys like that. The general WTF-ness of some of their calls really get you thinking. And the scene where the Doctor calls out Captain "Encino Man" on that very subject is the icing on the cake.
The action and battle sequences were just amazing. Although as many have noted, there really aren't all that many of them, and some of them are painfully short. That's OK, though, par for the course. It can get a bit grisly at times, but not so much so to get you squeamish. Really, they could have made it a lot worse. They're done well enough that you fully buy into them, and they never go over the top as to become unbelievable, as can sometimes happen.
It is a bit disconcerting the amount of, (thinking for the right word), disdain is shown to the troops' actions though. Regardless of their motives, it seems like they always wound up killing some innocent person or child or villagers in the process. Again, while there may be some truth to that, I think the point was made one too many times. Especially in the last moments of the final episode, which seemed a little too much like the closing slides of "Redacted" for my tastes, yet it was still done in a somewhat more respectful light. If you've seen the two sequences, you probably know what I'm talking about. What separates GK from that fiasco is how the different characters react to it all.
All of the details are just much too involved to get into here. But other aspects of the story are worth talking about, namely the desire to do what's right versus following orders, versus the ingrained and trained nature of the Marines as warriors.... The countermanding of outlandish orders, the conflict between officers and enlisted men, the confusion and losses suffered from these actions. Really I think is what's at the heart of Generation Kill. Not having read the book I can't comment on the original author's intent, but here that seems to be the overarching theme...
... that we as a military and a country need to figure out what the hell we are doing there. From the early episodes where their mission was clear, to oust Saddam and "liberate" the country, to the last few episodes where it becomes clear to the men that "this isn't going to be over anytime soon." And how right they were.
I think I'm starting to ramble a bit. Let's just close with this: Generation Kill is a great portrayal of what's going on over there. It's funny, it's complex, it's horrible, it's simple, it's decent, it's just plain indecent... it's just a lot of different things. Putting all together like they've done here is amazing. The final scene with Wright leaving the base sort of says it all.
Generation Kill isn't out on DVD yet, but I recommend it if you've not seen it yet. I don't think the trailers I found really represent what the series is all about. But here's one of them.
Ah, found this 10 minute clip. Much better representation of the whole shebang, even if its only from one episode (IIRC).
Summary: Generation Kill is a great portrayal of what's going on over there. It's funny, it's complex, it's horrible, it's simple, it's decent, it's just plain indecent... it's just a lot of different things. Putting all together like they've done here is amazing.