Title: Band of Brothers
Film Date: Premiered September 9, 2001
Availability: Blu-ray and DVD
Synopsis: Band of Brothers follows the story of E ("Easy") Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division from their initial training in 1942 to the end of World War II. Among their many accomplishments: Easy Company parachuted behind enemy lines in the early hours of D-Day, participated in the liberation of Carentan and Operation Market Garden, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, held the vital crossroads at Bastogne, liberated a concentration camp within Germany, and were the first to enter Hitler's retreat in Berchtesgarten. All of this frequently done under horrendous conditions. In addition to the enemy, they had to battle questionable leadership, bitter cold, insufficient shelter and limited food and ammunition.
Worth Watching? Definitely. Originally, I had only planned to watch the episodes Jamie appeared in, but soon found myself sucked by the triumphs and tragedies of the men of Easy Company - and many amazing performances. I soon was tracking down the episodes I missed and have watched the series numerous times since my initial viewing.
Speaking of the amazing performances, Band of Brothers is a Who's Who of future television and film stars. Damien Lewis, Ron Livingston, Donnie Wahlberg, Michael Cudlitz, Scott Grimes, Neal McDonough, David Schwimmer, Simon Pegg, Colin Hanks, Tom Hardy - and future mutants Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy - are just some of the names you'll recognize. Of course, much like Jamie's part, you may miss some of them if you look away from the screen for a moment. ;)
Does he live or die? Given the number of casualties during WWII, as well as in the mini series, I didn't have high hopes for 2nd Lieutenant Jack Foley's survival. But! It turns out that, not only did he survive the war, Foley passed away in 2009 at the age of 87.
Band of Brothers, at nearly twelve hours in length, would be impossible to recap. Good thing Jamie only appears in about two minutes over the course of two episodes. I don't care what Jamie's imdb credits say, I have not been able to spot him in 'Why We Fight', only 'The Breaking Point' (his more significant screen time) and 'The Last Patrol'.
If you've watched the series, you know it's not just the subject matter that is often bleak. In depicting the harsh realities of fighting during a German winter, the filmmakers chose to use a monochromatic color palette, bordering on black and white. This coupled with the actors appearances – exhausted, unshaven and covered in dirt – it's frequently hard to tell one actor from another. The first time I watched 'The Breaking Point', I was half way through Jamie's scenes before I realized it was him. True story!
A brief recap: in the climactic battle in The Breaking Point, the Germans have been pushed back to the town of Foy. When Easy Company is finally given orders to attack, they are led by Lt. Dike, a man clearly in over his head, who makes numerous bad tactical errors that lead to unnecessary casualties. Captain Winters (Damien Lewis, often the series POV character), observing the disastrous fight from the nearby woods, wants to rush into battle to lead his old company, but is ordered to stay. Thinking fast, Winters orders (the fearless or insane – hard to tell!) Lt. Speirs to take over command of the company. Spiers not only saves lives, but salvages the assault on the town.
Honestly, I feel it's hard to judge someone, like Dike, when you've never had to experience the terrifying situations these men have been in and have the lives of others in your hands. On the other hand, Wikipedia tells me his actions in battle were pretty accurately represented in the series and he was NOT popular with those who served with him, so.....
As Foley takes refuge (HA!), Dike complains he can't see him. My reaction is, "Isn't that a good thing?" I mean, if Dike can't see him, hopefully neither can the Germans.
Having lost site of most of the men under his command, Dike feels the need to have a face to face chat with Foley. No problem! Well, accept for Foley having to abandon his crappy cover to run across an open field as bullets fly by.
When Foley...and everyone else wanting to live...asks what the plan is, Dike, now in full on panic mode, responds with, "I don't know! don't know!" It's at moments such as these I remind myself we won the war. Meanwhile, Captain Winters is furiously trying to get Dike on the radio in an attempt to get him to do something besides leaving the men in the open to be picked off.
Finally, Dike orders Foley to take his men on a flanking mission around the village and attack from the rear. This was not part of the original plan. The one in which there was a chance to live. Which leads to the what will become known as......
However, what Foley actually says is, "You want the 1st platoon to go around and attack the village by itself?!" Dike promises suppressing fire to cover them. Foley points out, "We're going to be kind of alone out there, Lieutenant."
Fortunately, before they embark on Dike's mission
When next we see Lt. Foley it's, very briefly, in the The Last Patrol. Easy Company has been moved across the Rhine to France, where things are slightly better for the men. Private David Webster, injured during an operation months before, has returned to the company, but soon realizes his long absence from the fighting has caused him to be looked at as an outsider.
Finally, looking close to shell shocked by his recent experiences and really not giving a rat's ass about a guy whose been safely tucked away in a hospital for months, Foley tells Webster to report to 2nd Platoon, which lost more men then they did. :(