HBO’s Band of Brothers Miniseries: A Look Back at One of the Top War Films of All Time

20 Feb

Cast Members from Band of Brothers, HBO Miniseries

Can it be possible that we’re getting closer to fifteen years since HBO’s successful Band of Brothers miniseries debuted in 2001? Following the creative successes of their Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan (1998), Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ landmark Band of Brothers helped accelerate the rejuvenated interest in history of the Second World War, and more specifically, 1944’s Allied landings at Normandy and the subsequent push eastward to Berlin. The miniseries, based on Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 best-selling book of the same title, was filmed in England and Switzerland.

Watching Band of Brothers now for the umpteenth time, the miniseries remains as fresh and engrossing as it was in 2001. I had forgotten how truly remarkable this work really is. During “Points,” the final episode of the series, I was again sad to see the miniseries conclude. The camaraderie and caring the Toccoa men showed one another throughout the war and beyond was refreshing to witness. Go back and re-watch “The Breaking Point,” episode 7, and Neal McDonough’s reaction as Buck Compton to the wounding of Bill Guarnere (played by Frank John Hughes) and Joe Toye (played by Kirk Acevedo). Emotional and moving.

Bolstered by a strong cast and historically accurate storyline, the miniseries has become one of the best-selling DVD sets of all time. Damian Lewis’ portrayal of Major Dick Winters was superb and easily Emmy worthy; although Lewis did not win that top honor, the actor was nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television. Ron Livingston’s portrayal of Captain Lewis Nixon earned the actor a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. The complete list of nominations and awards earned by Band of Brothers can be found here.

Band of Brothers did win the Emmy for Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special in 2002–along with numerous other Emmy awards. It’s easy to understand why. The cast that portrayed the men of Easy Company was remarkable in its characterizations. Shooting the series took close to ten months to film, and the actors deftly portrayed the unbreakable bond shared by men who had fought in war–bonds that took longer to establish in real life, as exhibited by the real paratroopers of Easy Company.

Scott Grimes as Donald Malarkey and Frank John Hughes as Bill Guarnere were both superb and likable in their performances–as were many others in the miniseries. We even reveled in disliking David Schwimmer as the demanding antagonist Captain Herbert Sobel and Peter O’Meara as the malingering Lt. Norman Dike–a testament to their great acting.

Saint Joseph’s College (Maine) has a webpage featuring a three-way discussion among faculty titled: “What makes great cinema?” Check it out and decide for yourself if Band of Brothers meets their criteria.

Sadly, we’ve lost more of the real heroes of Easy Company since the miniseries 2001 release: Dick Winters in January, 2011; Lynn “Buck” Compton in February, 2012; Frank Perconte in October, 2013; and Edward James “Babe” Heffron in December, 2013, to list just a few. Update: Bill Guarnere passed to heaven on March 8, 2014, joining his fellow Band of Brothers heroes. For an updated and complete Easy Company personnel roster please go here.

♠ Band of Brothers HD intro (with more clips) courtesy of YouTube

Visit HBO’s Band of Brothers website


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