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Band of Brothers
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Band of Brothers is an intense, realistic look at a company of WWII paratroopers and is based on true stories. The miniseries was intended to be a sort of fleshed-out Saving Private Ryan, and the battlefield footage is similar, with merciless death coming suddenly and graphically to characters we've gotten to know and love over the course of the 10-hour series. There are shootings and soldiers set afire; hails of bullets with paratroopers floating through them; planes getting shot, losing their wings, and careening thunderously to the ground. Soldiers are suddenly shot in the head or in the butt, crawl on their bellies through muck and gunfire, collapse into pools of blood in disturbingly realistic scenes, while those left behind grieve and fear for their own safety. Off the battlefield, soldiers train in brutal sequences and blow off steam on weekend passes where they sometimes get up to mischief like consensual sex with European locals in which breasts and buttocks are shown. Soldiers are often shown drinking and smoking, particularly one character, who is a functioning alcoholic shown drinking from a flask almost constantly. Some families may also not appreciate scenes in which leadership is shown to be capricious and cruel, particularly as in the first episode, "Currahee." Young kids would likely be traumatized by the violence, while older ones may be a bit confused unless they know their WWII history.
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What's the story?
Band of Brothers, the 10-hour miniseries based on a non-fiction book of the same name written by historian Stephen Ambrose, follows the exploits of Easy Company, a group of United States Army paratroopers who were on the ground during many of the crucial battles of World War II, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy and Operation Market Garden. Starting with jump training at Camp Toccoa in Georgia, the series chronologically follows Easy Company through a number of important WWII battles as well as showing the camp life the soldiers led in between skirmishes. The series ends after the war does, showing how the soldiers who made it through then struggled to reintegrate themselves into civilian and family life. Though Band of Brothers is fictionalized, many of the events shown occurred to real people in precisely the way depicted onscreen, a fact driven home by many talking-head interviews with real-life Easy Company members, now senior citizens, who reflect both bitterly and nostalgically on their tours of duty.
Is it any good?
Like Saving Private Ryan, which also boasts the marquee exec-producing powerhouses Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, Band of Brothers pulls no punches when it comes to showing the horrors of war. The battlefield scenes are so pulse-poundingly realistic and graphic, chaotic and terrifying, that viewers will be riveted, if not a little sick to their stomachs. Unless they know a bit about WWII history, they may also be confused as to who's fighting whom and why it matters. But unlike Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers has the screen time to flesh out who's inside the soldier's uniform. You get to know each character in the unit as the series unspools, so when one is killed, it's all the more crushing. We see the soldiers rank each other out, train together, fight together, and then, all too often, grieve for each other.
But there is heroism amongst the horror. Since the series follows a large ensemble cast, including many who were almost-unknowns when they appeared, such as Ron Livingston (Office Space), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), and a baby-faced Michael Fassbender, it's tough to identify a central character. But the series' heart lies with Lieutenant Dick Winters (Damian Lewis), the stoic and gentle father figure of Easy Company, who leads his men both on and off the battlefield with courage and conviction. Watching Lewis as the stalwart Winters gives the series its best moments.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Band of Brothers is a realistic depiction of war. Has anyone in your family served in battle? How true-to-life are the characters and action in Band of Brothers?
Do you think the creators of Band of Brothers view WWII as horrific and pointless or important and ennobling? Or possibly all of that at the same time? What in the plot, dialogue, or characterizations gives you this idea?
What other dramas or documentaries have you seen about this period of world history? How closely does Band of Brothers resemble these programs? Is it more or less stirring? Realistic? Upsetting? Does watching Band of Brothers make you want to fight in a war, or avoid the battlefield?
- On DVD or streaming: November 5, 2002
- Cast: Colin Hanks, Damian Lewis, David Schwimmer, Donnie Wahlberg, James McAvoy, Kirk Acevedo, Ron Livingston, Simon Pegg
- Directors: David Frankel, Mikael Salomon
- Studio: HBO Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Courage, Integrity
- Run time: 705 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
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