Sunday, July 13, 2008

Generation Kill

We don't recommend television as a rule, but if we did the only thing in that vast desert we would recommend watching at the moment is Generation Kill, which debuts on HBO tonight.

It's written and produced by Ed Burns and David Simon, the creative geniuses who wrote the superlative 'visual novel' titled The Wire. The new mini-series is based on a book with the same title, written by Evan Wright.

The NY Times recently ran a preview:
Generation Kill,” an HBO seven-part mini-series about the invasion of Iraq that begins on Sunday, is bold, uncompromising and oddly diffident. It maintains impeccable dignity even as it tracks a group of shamelessly and engagingly profane, coarse and irreverent marines, members of an elite reconnaissance battalion that spearheaded the invasion. The odyssey of these men from training tents in Kuwait to occupied Baghdad is laid out with brutal candor and without the aid of maudlin cinematography or emotive music. The closest thing to a thematic score is the starched, staticky clatter of radio traffic: “Roger that” and “This is Hit Man II, over.”

It is a true story of combat and male bonding, but it is told disjointedly and atonally, perhaps because it pursues clashing goals. “Generation Kill” tries to honor the ordeal — and the humanity — of its heroes while exposing the futility of their quest. It was written by David Simon and Ed Burns, the team behind “The Wire,” and was adapted from the prizewinning book by Evan Wright, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone who was embedded with Bravo Company for the duration of the assault.

The script is faithful to Mr. Wright’s account, respectful of the soldiers he befriended and as opaque and ascetic as “The Wire,” an opus that forced viewers to parse multiple plots and a huge cast of characters without directions or subtitles.
Two cautions: First, if you're going to watch it at all, start with the first episode and proceed chronologically from there. Given the writers' style, this is not likely to be the usual TV schlock you can follow while in a torpid state of low alpha wave activity.

Second, as several critics such as Maureen Ryan are warning, as with any great novel it will take a chapter -- or episode -- or two "to truly get into the action."

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