Stay Frosty

Like I said before, I'm very new on the 'The Wire' bus. So far, I've still only seen the first series and with a new year of law school starting up today, I may not have the time to get more into it for a while. One season was enough, though, to make me interested in seeing Generation Kill, the new miniseries from the same creators, David Simon and Ed Burns, as The Wire. It's well established that recent films about the Iraq War have underformed, but seven hours of TV from these guys was bound to be better. And oh man, it was better. Best thing I've seen all television all year, and though I don't watch a lot of television, admittedly, it's still high praise. I was waiting for the show to finish its 7-episode run, which it did last night, before writing about it.

The show, about a Battalion of U.S. Marines arriving in Iraq at the start of the war, and leaving at the end of the war, is based on a book. The guy who wrote the book, a Rolling Stone journalist named Evan Wright, is played in the series by Lee Tergesen, who is interesting to me because he played Terry ("I love you, man!") in Wayne's World. Winner.

Characters, dialogue, camaraderie, dissent, authority, guilt, liberation. 'Generation Kill' had everything. There were signs of the ineffective command, from the commanders more interested in getting medals and honours for their bravery than the well-being of their men. The main authority figure is called the Godfather, and at the end of the series has a rare moment of self-awareness and depth. There are leaders who are terrifyingly inept, like the trigger-happy Captain America, whose carelessness gets two of his men suspended. Among the lower-ranked men, there's plenty of characters as well, like Ray, who talks and sounds like Randall in Clerks, and leads the group in a big 'Teenage Dirtbag' singalong in one early episode. There are guys who are just there to kill, and there are those with more of a conscience, whose guilt wracks up throughout the series. Fick and Colbert, the two "main" characters in a big cast, have a great dynamic between one another, and are looked up to by all the men. It's really great to see how their relationship progresses as the group gets increasingly dangerous missions and how Fick has to balance doing what's right with repeated reminders to follow orders.

Interaction with Iraqi civilians is often unsettling. The group only has one translator, something which is often mentioned with exasperation. In one episode, a well educated local woman sarcastically thanks the troops for occupying her country. Other times, they just plead for food, water, medical attention, or just to not have their homes blown up. I've not been to this area, so I can't authoritatively say "Yes, it's entirely accurate and realistic", though by all accounts from those who know, it is. There are explosions, the constant dread of ambush, moments of bonding. It was just a great series. Look out for it on DVD whenever it gets a release, you won't regret it.

And here's the song that plays over the final montage.

[download Johnny Cash - When the Man Comes Around]


Adrian said...

Have you had a chance to check out the Corner?

Find It