Baghdad, Iraq, 2003. Mission: Unclear. Enemy: Unidentified. Duration of Tour: Unknown.
It was impossible for the Marines of the First Recon Battalion to anticipate what would occur during those first 40 days of the Iraq war as they found themselves struggling with shoddy supplies, frustrated by the chain of command and questioning the mission at every turn.
Generation Kill is the latest offering from David Simon, Ed Burns and HBO, the team which previously brought you The Wire. Generation Kill is based on the book of the same name by journalist Evan Wright, who travelled with . It stars Alexander Skarsgård (Tru Blood), James Ransone (The Wire - Ziggy), Lee Tergesen (Wanted, Oz), Jon Huertas (Castle), Jonah Lotan (CSI:NY), Stark Sands and Billy Lush (The Black Donnellys) to name a few (there are twenty eight starring members in this).
The miniseries follows the members of Bravo Company's advance squad and the reporter who was assigned to travel with them (Evan Wright was this man in actuality - but he's not identified as such here), the members of this squad are Sergeant Brad 'Iceman' Colbert, Corporal Josh Ray Person and Lance Corporal Harold James Trombley. The reporter joins them and we follow them throughout the first phase of the Iraq war.
The themes of the miniseries are clear; the series highlights the difficulties which the marines faced during their time. Problems and challenges which came not just from external sources but also from within the company itself. Issues with the chain of command, incompetent superior officers, food supplies, equipment and much more all stand in the way of Bravo Company and this is without considering the Iraq army intent on defending their homeland.
This is a series which is merciless in depicting the harsh reality of war, this is no heroic war movie designed to make the Americans look like the liberating heroes fighting the cardboard villainous 'bad guys'. The Iraqi forces are often outclassed by the Americans and have little chance. The consequences of war reverberate throughout this series with the sound of mortar shells.
Generation Kill doesn't shy away from depicting the atrocities which were commit ed during this war, but it also doesn't vilify the marines. They are depicted as rounded human beings put into an insane situation, they deal with the situation as best they can. Whether it's a troublesome Captain who has a gun hoe attitude and the awareness of a young child or orders to abandon civilians they react and deal in a very human fashion. Generation Kill manages to walk that tightrope, able to show the terrible things which happened in the war without dehumanising the marines either.
Before finishing up I'd like to just say that the performances in Generation Kill are all uniformly superb but it is worth noting especially how fantastic James Ransone is in this. The character of his I'm most familiar with - Ziggy from The Wire - is often lauded as a (deliberately) irritating and unsympathetic character - something I don't entirely agree with, but I do see the sentiment. His performance in Generation Kill is so distant from this previous form I didn't even realise he was the same actor at first, it took a while to make the connection.
Generation Kill is not only an enjoyable and entertaining piece of television, but it's also an eye opener. The authenticity of this series is a palpable thing and the messages it delivers, while mixed, are powerful.
Generation Kill is quite literally bursting at the seams with extras, my copy is so physically full that the set itself bulges. This is because the "Basic Training" book included with the set is so large it doesn't quite fit inside the case properly alongside all of the DVDs.
This book is an essential read and should both be read before watching the series and also kept handy nearby. This is because Generation Kill has highly authentic dialog and uses Marine terminology and call signs throughout the series without providing much in the way of explanation. I did find myself wishing there was a set of subtitles which would put the "translation" up when terminology was used. But you get used to it all quickly enough.
Also included on the set are the following:
Generation Kill: A Conversation with the 1st Recon Marines
Making Generation Kill
Eric Ladin's Video Diaries
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Run Time: 451 Mins Approx
Hearing Impaired: English
Subtitles: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish