Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Generation Kill

HBO has created some great mini-series in its history, Band of Brothers being the most memorable. Generation Kill is along the same lines- let's follow a tightly knit group of men through wartime. This time they are volunteers, are fighting a different foe, and have politicians pecking at the back of their necks at every turn.

I watched the first episode with Iraq Vet and rampaging devil dog Darth Milk last week. He was in boot camp when we invaded, having joined shortly after 9/11 and before the Iraq War was a foregone conclusion. We were making headway in Afghanistan, the world was on our side. 4,000 American lives and 30,000 American limbs later, we can look at the war hopefully in hindsight, and see the roots of "the insurgency," and if lack of planning helped planted the seeds. The book Generation Kill by Evan Wright does not pontificate but just shows the invasion from the soldier's perspective and airs their frustrations.

We meet the usual cast of characters- our fighting Marines, their elite Force Recon units, the tip of the spear for Operation Iraqi Freedom. They are sitting idle in Kuwait, waiting for the other shoe to drop. They are under supplied and know it- when the PX has stuff they need, they are only allowed to buy so many. Batteries for the Night Vision goggles were the chronic problem, not to mention the lack of body armor, armor for the Humvees, and so on. Milky corroborated the portrayal of the base and said it was so authentic that he felt like he was back there.

The first episode introduces us to our motley crew and Marine culture- offending each other, playful homoerotica, the "moto" guys who do PT runs in gas-masks with rocks in their packs to simulate full gear, the sticklers for operational rules like having your shirt tucked in even if you're working on a busted Hummer they expect you to win wars with. The bootleg porn, the ripoffs of having to pay $10 for fast food trucked in as a relief from the mess hall slop and MRE monotony. How the Charms candies are bad luck.
Lance Corporal Milky and his M-41 Battle Gourd

Evan Wright, the embedded Rolling Stone reporter who wrote the book this is based on, is played by Lee Tergesen, who's bopped around television and minor movie roles. He looks damned familiar, but the only things IMDb has him in that 've seen recently are Wayne's World, Monster and one of the worst "Masters of Horror" episodes in that scattershot series. He looks the role and will be the audience surrogate among the hardcore fighting men. HBO has definitely lavished the series with cash and I had no problem believing they were in Iraq. Actually they're in Namibia and South Africa. I can't imagine the military being too cooperative with this, but Milky said they even had the boxes of water rations right.

HBO is doing things right- John Adams may not have been the most riveting story, but it was worth watching for the performances. And the open length, running from 75 to 90 minutes, suits the mini-series better.

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