The PacificOverview -
From the producers of Band of Brothers, The Pacific tracks the real-life journeys of three U.S. Marines--Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello) and John Basilone (Jon Seda)--across the vast canvas of the Pacific Theater during World War II. The miniseries follows these men and their fellow Marines from their first battle with the Japanese on Guadalcanal, through the rain forests of Cape Gloucester and the strongholds of Peleliu, across the bloody sands of Iwo Jima and through the horror of Okinawa, and finally to their triumphant but uneasy return home after V-J Day.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
I'm pretty sure I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after watching 'The Pacific,' but I say that in the best possible way. 'The Pacific' tells the story of numerous Marines as they are shipped off to small islands in the South Pacific to fight the Japanese. After Pearl Harbor, the Americans weren't just fighting Hitler and the Nazis, now the Empire of Japan had viciously attacked the United States and were trying to take over the islands of the Pacific Ocean. In order to push the Japanese back and regain dominance in the Pacific, hordes of Marines were shipped far and wide. What resulted was an extremely brutal war, which is presented in 'The Pacific' in all its gory cruelty.
It would take far too long to describe each and every Marine's story here. The miniseries is presented in such a way that we follow a group of newly green Marines who ship out to their first posting in the Pacific. Over the course of the series those Marines become hardened and callous during their numerous battles. A new group is sent out, while the old group deals with their eventual return home. Each of the men portrayed here were real individuals who had the experiences that you witness.
PFC Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) comes from a family with a lot of kids, and finds it difficult when his father treats his going to war as an everyday occurrence. Leckie is one of the main characters. He's lovesick for a girl back home who he's never even dated. He writes her long-winded, beautifully-worded letters about what kind of a hell this war really is. Sgt. John Basilone (Jon Seda) comes from an Italian family, and after a particularly intense battle finds himself being sent home after he's been awarded the Medal of Honor. Basilone becomes a national celebrity as the face of the war. He has to deal with the fact that he knows his buddies are being shot at while he's being wined and dined at home as he tries to sell war bonds to the American public. The guilt is unbearable. Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello) is determined to become a Marine even though his father, who's a doctor, won't allow it since the young man has a heart murmur. Eugene's best friend Sidney Phillips (Ashton Holmes) has joined up. They hoped to join up together, but Eugene will just have to wait for his father's permission.
There are a number of other guys whose stories are followed during this ten-part series, but I won't break down each of their experiences. Don't worry, each of their stories is worth watching. Each of these men who sign up voluntarily to serve their country, comes out wide-eyed and ready to do battle. They're completely oblivious to the horrors that await them. Their wide-eyed eagerness soon turns into bitter resentment as they are faced with unimaginable violence and carnage day after day. Throw in the fact that they spend most of their time sitting in muddy holes as tropical rains pour down on them, and it's easy to understand how they lost their motivation.
At times 'The Pacific' is very hard to watch. They don't leave much to the imagination. These were brutal, close-quarter battles that involved thousands of soldiers on both sides getting killed. The goriness is necessary though, just like it was in 'Saving Private Ryan.' Even though 'The Pacific' is full of blood and guts, I think I'm safe in saying that even after watching this whole series we haven't seen a fraction of how bad it really was there.
'The Pacific' is a sweeping tale about real-life American war heroes. It may be sexed up and dramatized a little, but what these men went through was anything but fiction. This series really is quite amazing in its scope and storytelling. Because of the carnage you'll want to cover your eyes, but because of the characters you won't want to miss a second. HBO, along with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, have pieced together a (more or less) historically accurate portrayal of what it must have been like to fight the Japanese in the Pacific. It's not pretty, but it really is a must see.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Pacific' is a ten-part (nearly ten hour-long miniseries) that was produced by HBO. It comes to Blu-ray in a 6-disc BD-50 set. Like 'Band of Brothers,' 'The Pacific' is packed nicely away in a snazzy looking tin case with some great artwork that will be great to display on your shelf. On the inside of the front case is an episode list with information on who directed and wrote each episode. Inside the discs are packed in their own disc hubs, which are contained in a cardboard fold-out like the DVD versions of '24.' I've never been a fan of these large fold-out cases. They become cumbersome and annoying when you have to fold them all the way out to get to the disc you want.
Detail, detail, detail! That's the first thing you'll notice about this near-flawless 1080p AVC-encoded transfer. 'The Pacific' looks near perfect presented on Blu-ray. Fine detail is some of the best I've ever seen. During close-ups on the actors every fleck of dirt, every smudge of mud can be seen in stunning clarity. The rigid texture of their uniforms pop off the screen. There's one astonishing scene in the very beginning of the series as the new Marines watch in the distance as Navy ships fight Japanese ships in the harbor. A bright fireball explodes, and it looks perfectly real and believable. The detail of this show is just breath-taking there's no way other to describe what you'll see when you purchase this set.
Shadow delineation, during the day, creates stark clearly defined shadows that never seem to engulf or obscure features. Instead the top-notch delineation adds to an already detailed picture. Colors are strong, with the greenery of the tropical jungles being the dominant color. Red is another color that's featured strongly throughout the series. The dark, red blood is everywhere, covering almost everything. As much as you may want to get away from it, the blood-reds that populate this series are perfectly rendered, giving us even more of a sense of what the bloodshed was like.
I do have a few slight nitpicks with the transfer though. Whether this is because of the transfer or the filming conditions I don't know, but the low-light scenes suffer from some very slight crushing. The amazing detail during the daytime is somewhat obscured at night. There are a few times I noticed blacks taking on a flattened matte feel during the nighttime scenes. During the last episode, some aliasing is noticeable on tightly woven suit jackets that creates a shimmering effect on screen. There is some slight ringing that can be seen throughout the series as well.
While that may sound like quite a few blemishes, believe me, in the grand scheme of this series it isn't. For the most part, 'The Pacific' on Blu-ray shines as an intricately detailed visual account of what our Marines went through during the war against Japan.
I had some nitpicks with the video, but it's safe to say that I have no qualms whatsoever with this amazing reference audio presentation presented here. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is one of the best mixes I've heard on Blu-ray ever. That's right, I feel safe in saying that this will now end up being your demo disc when you want to show off what your sound system can do.
Where most Blu-ray soundtracks fail is having lively, engaging surrounds. Here, the rear speakers are constantly working to produce a soundfield so lifelike you'll feel like bombs are being dropped right on your couch. I've never heard an HD audio mix use panning effects like this one. Planes are constantly buzzing from one end of the soundfield to the other. Mortars lob in overhead and explode with frightening ferocity. Bullets whiz by the front of the soundstage as the characters on screen yell orders at each other.
The rousing, patriotic Hans Zimmer score booms forth through each channel engulfing the listener. The low-end frequency is almost non-stop as bombs, mortars and grenades explode constantly. The sub works overtime just to keep up with all the LFE that is required during the intense battle scenes. When planes fly overhead the room rumbles to life with deep, resonating bass.
Dialogue is perfectly prioritized and, even though all hell is breaking loose around them, voices and orders can still be heard through the center channel. Even during its more subdued times, like when Leckie finds himself in a Naval hospital far away from the battle crowded rooms and mess halls offer a nice change of pace, but still have a wonderful mix of surround sound activity thrown in to keep us swallowed up in the overall meticulous sound design.
If I had to describe this entire audio experience in one word, it would have to be "perfection." It's demo-worthy in every sense. It's an amazing, engaging tour de force that will keep you completely enveloped for the entirety of the series.
- Historical Prologues (HD) – Each episode comes with a prologue where Tom Hanks and others, including historians and Marines, give a historical background to the episode in question.
- Profiles of 'The Pacific' (HD, 48 min.) – All of the main characters are featured here with stories of their war experiences, their family dramas, and how they became Marines. Each of the segments can be played separately or you can use the Play All feature. The Marines covered here are John Basilone, Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie, Sidney Phillips, R.V. Burgin, and Chuck Tatum. Most of these guys have passed away or were killed in battle so family members and historians talk about how they are remembered. It's a treat though, when we get to hear Chuck Tatum, Sidney Phillips, and R.V. Burgin talk about their own experiences in the war as they are still alive.
- Making 'The Pacific' (HD, 22 min.) – Honestly, for a ten-part series of this scale I kind of expected a longer, more in-depth making of feature. Many of the interviews seem very promotional and EPK-like. Tom Hanks does make a few appearances here and there. The actors that play each character are given time to explain their character's motivations. They talk about the boot camp that all the actors had to endure in order to know exactly what the real-life Marines went through. Overall, this is more of an overview of the series with scenes from the episodes interspersed with promotional interviews. Kind of a letdown actually.
- Anatomy of the Pacific War (HD, 10 min.) – Historians discuss why Japan wanted to expand its empire and why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in the first place. The most interesting part of this short featurette is when the historians talk about the propaganda that was used on both sides.
If there was ever a "must own" Blu-ray set to add to your collection 'The Pacific' is it. As a whole, 'The Pacific' dives more into the psychological toll the war took on the minds of the soldiers than 'Band of Brothers' did. It's brutality is often overshadowed by the deep intimacy we encounter with each character we come to know. HBO has outdone themselves again, creating one of the best accounts of World War II out there. Bringing to light the sacrifices made by our soldiers who fought the Japanese in the Pacific. We hear so much about what happened in Europe during this time period that watching this gave me a new appreciation for an aspect of the war that I knew little about.
'The Pacific' comes to Blu-ray with a stellar video presentation, and an audio presentation that is unparalleled. The HD extras were great to have, I loved the Enhanced Viewing option, but when they included a sixth disc just for special features I thought for sure it would have had more than just three short featurettes. I was disappointed in the making of featurette the most. A ten-hour mini-series and all they could squeeze out was a little of 20 minutes of promo fluff?
In the end though, despite the paltry offerings when it comes to a decent helping of quality extras, this is a must own set. This is one you'll want to use to show off the capabilities of your HD system, but it's also a series that is unlike any other out there. Full of spirit, heart, and American sacrifice.
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