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The Pacific(TV) (2010)
The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that delivers a realistic portrait of WWII's Pacific Theatre as seen through the intertwined odysseys of three U.S. Marines - Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain forests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day. The viewer will be immersed in combat through the intimate perspective of this diverse, relatable group of men pushed to the limit in battle both physically and psychologically against a relentless enemy unlike any encountered before.
For more about The Pacific and the The Pacific Blu-ray release, see the The Pacific Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 25, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bob Rumnock, Toby Leonard Moore, Joshua Biton, James Badge Dale, Joseph Mazzello, Jon Seda
Narrator: Tom Hanks
Directors: David Nutter, Carl Franklin, Jeremy Podeswa, Timothy Van Patten, Graham Yost
» See full cast & crew
The Pacific Blu-ray Review
"Little did we know that Hell was an ocean away..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 25, 2010
Before director Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan left audiences in silent awe, Hollywood's depiction of war had long been dominated (perhaps rightfully so) by cynicism and anti-war sentiment. As early as 1930, golden age masterpieces like All Quiet on the Western Front turned their attention to entire generations of men haunted by the horrors of combat. By 1957, Academy Award-winning films like The Bridge on the River Kwai were dissecting the hopelessness and futility of the world's most brutal conflicts. In the 1970s, Vietnam ripped opened old wounds, paving the way for several scathing indictments of wartime practices and politics -- Apocalypse Now, Platoon, First Blood, Casualties of War and Born on the Fourth of July, just to name a few -- to examine the atrocity, madness and soul-crushing savagery of it all. Later films delved even further into the abyss, injecting injustice and inhumanity into everything from machismo-riddled '80s and '90s actioners to conspiracy-laden war dramas of the late '90s.
But Saving Private Ryan did something few other films before it had done: explore the impact, enmity and insanity of war without diluting the humble service and innate sacrifice of the ordinary men -- the everyday schoolteachers, teenagers, shopkeepers, fathers and sons -- who gave their all for something more pure and meaningful. In 2001, Spielberg and Tom Hanks took their study of the bonds of battlefield brotherhood a step further with the critically acclaimed, emotionally charged 10-part HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers. Disquieting and engrossing, it remains one of the most distinguished, cinematic, heart-wrenching television productions of all time. Needless to say, their next foray into the trials and tribulations of World War II, The Pacific, arrived earlier this year to tremendous fanfare and towering expectations.
Just as the Pacific theater of operations was home to a drastically different World War than the European theater, The Pacific is a drastically different miniseries than Band of Brothers. Not only is substantial screentime devoted to some of its characters' home lives and families, the themes that slowly develop, the battles that suddenly erupt, the challenges that emerge and the situations the soldiers find themselves in prove to be as unpredictable as the details of the lesser known Pacific War. Based on four separate WWII memoirs -- PFC Robert Leckie's "Helmet for My Pillow," PFC Chuck Tatum's "Red Blood, Black Sand: with John Basilone on Iwo Jima," Corporal Eugene Sledge's "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa" and his followup, "China Marine: An Infantryman's Life after World War II" -- The Pacific follows Sledge (played brilliantly by The Social Network's Joseph Mazzello), Leckie (Rubicon's James Badge Dale) and Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone (Homicide: Life on the Street's Jon Seda) into the fray, and focuses on a number of pivotal but bloody battles at Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other Pacific theater hotspots.
It isn't easy to watch The Pacific. More a nine-hour, ten-part film than a traditional television miniseries, it paints a visceral, violent picture of a fierce, widespread stage of World War II often overshadowed by the Allies' efforts in Germany and Greater Europe. And if The Pacific makes any one thing painfully clear, it's that the blood spilled on the sun-streaked beaches of the Pacific was just as costly as the blood spilled at Bastogne and Berlin. Like Band of Brothers, The Pacific weighed heavily on my mind after each episode. There are moments of such startling sadness, poignant strokes of such raw human frailty, unsettling scenes of such terrible tragedy that I was grateful to have a week between each broadcast. While a sense of grand purpose and noble determination propels the soldiers forward, the injuries, deaths, sacrifices and shaken spirits that litter the screen are as overwhelming as they are moving. I found it all too easy to forget I was watching a cast of talented actors; to forget that I was being treated to a sprawling HBO production; to forget I was privy to a stirring technical achievement in which no expense was spared. Mazzello, Dale and Seda became Sledge, Leckie and Basilone. Their fellow soldiers were suddenly living and breathing the salty air of the Pacific. Fallen heroes cried very real cries before dying very real deaths. Fear rose and bravery surged, men fought and bled, lines were drawn and enemies routed. If nothing else, The Pacific is an utterly absorbing, wholly realistic experience worthy of its lineage.
It's a humbling trek as well. Of all the wars the world has waged, World War II is perhaps the most dignified. Diverse nations banding together to defeat a monstrous force; men from all walks of life fighting and bleeding under the same banner of justice; allies managing to put aside their differences to accomplish a single task. It's this same subtle nobility that permeates The Pacific. Sledge, Leckie, Basilone and their fellow soldiers are far from perfect heroes. Flawed, fallible and all too mortal, they struggle to hold onto the remnants of their war-torn humanity, frequently fail each other and occasionally wallow in ego and self-interest. But it's their drive and ability to overcome their baser natures that makes each one such a fascinating character. Likewise, the Marines' larger battles, strategic decisions and willingness to adapt makes each skirmish an intense encounter, each defeat a bitter loss, each quiet reflection a thought-provoking respite and each hard-fought victory a palpable relief. Like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, The Pacific never turns a blind eye to the mercilessness and atrocities of war, but also doesn't ignore the fact that even the most unspeakable horrors can sharpen the least among us, mold boys into men and transform soldiers into brothers.
Is it as gripping as Band of Brothers? Not quite. A slightly slower start and some initial distractions (mainly involving scenes that take place in the US) will require more patience from those anxious to sink into The Pacific. That being said, it isn't long before the miniseries gains its footing and drags its audience into hell with Sledge, Leckie and Basilone. By the time the Marines landed at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, I was entranced. By the time the story drew to a close, I was grateful to have been given such a gritty glimpse into a crucial theater of WWII I knew very little about. I doubt I'll return to its ten episodes as often as I revisit Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, but The Pacific has earned a coveted place among the treasured war films and television miniseries in my collection.
The Pacific Blu-ray, Video Quality
HBO, perhaps more than any other studio to date, has made a habit of delivering absolutely essential television releases. For The Pacific, five BD-50 discs have been devoted to the miniseries' ten episodes, meaning each entry has been given ample room to breathe. The potent, wonderfully proficient result is a fantastic, arguably perfect 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that, barring one inherent issue, is sure to leave plenty of watery eyes in its wake. Framed with blazing white skies, gorgeous green jungles and rich, inky shadows, the miniseries' bloody battlefields and war-torn theater of operations is a staggering sight to behold. Dirt explodes around advancing Marines, blood spatters across the stone-strewn ground, explosions send shards of shrapnel flying and gunfire reduces dense foliage to powder. The color and clarity of the hotly contrasted chaos is nothing short of amazing and fine detail is as riveting as it is revealing. Magnificently resolved textures bring every sweat-streaked face and grimy uniform to startling life, razor-wire edges are crisp and clean (without any significant ringing to report), skintones are lifelike and precisely saturated, daytime delineation is impeccable and nary a brightly lit scene goes by without something of note to offer its wide-eyed audience.
Read that last sentence carefully though and you'll guess what comes next. Sequences that take place in the US, particularly those filmed at night or in low-lit interiors, aren't nearly as dazzling. Detail is still apparent, mind you, but not to the extent that it is during the sun-bleached scenes abroad. Delineation takes a hit, contrast is a bit flat and primaries are slightly muted. (The same quote-unquote shortcoming affects the moonlit battles that take place overseas, but I found these instances were far easier to overlook. If anything, the reduced visibility enhanced the tension and horror of the midnight skirmishes and dropped me in the middle of the murky madness.) All that being said, it's clear the presentation accurately reflects the intentions of the miniseries' masterminds and the darkness, dismal as it can be, rarely becomes a distraction. Otherwise, HBO's encode is immaculate. Artifacting, banding, smearing, aliasing, halos, crush and aberrant noise are nowhere to be found, and the miniseries' faint veneer of grain, though a tad uneven at times, remains natural and unobtrusive from episode to episode. As was the case with Band of Brothers, HBO has treated The Pacific with tremendous respect and honored its filmic efforts with an outstanding, true-to-its-source presentation worthy of the most discerning videophile's high praise.
The Pacific Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Wow. One more time: wow. As if it weren't already difficult enough to watch The Pacific without feeling a deep, emotional connection to its fallen heroes and steadfast soldiers, HBO's jaw-dropping, chest-splitting, hair-raising DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track makes every bullet, every death, every sacrifice, every act of selflessness a resonant, heart-wrenching experience. The LFE channel bombards the listener with earthy, at-times thundering thooms and booms, infusing explosions, roaring planes and blaring battleships with profound power and presence. The weight of each sound effect, be it subtle or earth-shaking, is convincing and intense; the impact of each rifle shot and artillery salvo won't soon be forgotten. Likewise, rear speaker activity is bold and arresting. Gunfire whizzes across the soundfield, rocks skitter from channel to channel, voices cry out in the distance, wind snakes through the jungle, waves advance up the beaches and the whole of the soundstage peppers the rear speakers as much as the front. Through it all, directionality boasts pinpoint accuracy and pans are as close to invisible as they come. Dialogue never wavers in the face of the sonic storm and voices are crystal clear regardless of the passive or aggressive nature of any particular scene. Shouts and whispers are given equal footing, barked orders mingle perfectly with the fury and the only lines that are consumed by the soundscape are those meant to be consumed. As it stands, I don't have a single criticism to level against HBO's lossless mix or the miniseries' sound design. And yet "perfection" seems like an understatement.
The Pacific Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 6-disc Blu-ray edition of The Pacific comes bundled in a sturdy metal case with rounded corners; a classy tin that looks right at home when sitting next to the Blu-ray release of Band of Brothers. The two sets share the same height and width, and the only notable difference between the two is that The Pacific case is a half-inch thinner. The Pacific's guts are quite different though as HBO has made a number of smart changes to the interior packaging. Jettisoning Band of Brothers' somewhat cumbersome, permanently attached accordion-style digipak, The Pacific features a much-improved seven-page digipak that lifts out of the tin case, houses all six discs in individual plastic trays and makes for a more practical, accessible and attractive package. Other than the fact that the metal box is still larger than a standard-sized Blu-ray case, I would be shocked to learn anyone has any serious complaints.
The Pacific's supplemental content is also comparable to those included with Band of Brothers, and that's a very, very good thing. Ten picture-in-picture experiences, ten interactive Field Guide tracks and an entire disc of special features will keep history buffs and casual viewers captivated (and quite busy) for a few weeks. Oh, did I mention all of the material is utterly engrossing, incredibly informative and presented entirely in high definition? Look for this excellent 6-disc set to make a well-deserved appearance on my list of the Top Ten Releases of 2010.
The Pacific Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Pacific, like Band of Brothers before it, represents a milestone in television miniseries. It not only realistically depicts the horrors of a little known theater of World War II, it honors the heroes of the Greatest Generation, features amazing performances and a moving story, and educates as readily as it engrosses. HBO's 6-disc Blu-ray edition is another must-own studio release. With a striking video transfer, a enthralling, pitch-perfect DTS-HD Master Audio track (one of the best of the year) and a bountiful supplemental package (that boasts ten PiP experiences, ten Field Guide tracks and more than an hour of additional content), The Pacific is easily one of the best releases of the year and comes with my unconditional recommendation.
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• Amazon Gold Box Deal of the Day: The Pacific 61% Off (Expired) - September 14, 2011
Amazon's Deal of the Day has the Steven Spielberg produced WWII miniseries The Pacific discounted to $38.99. The 10-part HBO epic centers on the experiences of two Marines fighting historical battles in the Pacific against Japanese forces. The deal, which amounts ...
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