OVERDOSE: Movies You Must Watch Before You Die (Special Guest Edition)
Overdose: Special Guest Edition
This week, Pillbox’s editor Pria Dahiya reviews a ten-hour World War Two mini-series that she thinks you actually really will enjoy. The show has a lot of cute boys!
I cannot stress this enough: "Band Of Brothers" is so good
Wahh wahhh wahhh covid wahhh wahhh wahhh work wahh wahh wahh stress boo hoo. Have yall ever heard of WAR!?
My priorities radically changed this past week when I, COVID-riddled and homebound, began watching the 2000 HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” with my very good friend and roommate who also happens to be an expert on World War II. You might be thinking, jeez, Pria, you get Cole’s radical, subversive film column and you review possibly the most cut-and-dry early 2000 war TV show, one that was literally directed by the king of mainstream cinema, Steven Spielberg?
Hear me out. Watching "Band of Brothers," in today’s media cycle, is in fact both radical, subversive, and yeah, I’ll say it: political resistance! The thing about "Band of Brothers" is that it is literally ONLY about World War II and ONLY about a specific, isolated group of paratroopers who don’t even fight in like, the major battles, they’re just literally clearing random roads and fields in France so that other war movies like Saving Private Ryan can happen in the background. But the very fact that the show is so narrow in its focus is what allows it to be broad in its detail.
I’m writing this review assuming that you, the reader, are like me — a coddled, art-adjacent young adult raised on a steady stream of A24 and Cr*ter*on with a healthy dose of Netflix Originals in the mix. I know some people grow up watching plenty of action and war movies, but personally, I was more of the Merchant-Ivory, Soft-Lighting, Women-Bickering, Spanish-Melodrama and Jane-Austen-Adaptations school of TV-watching. Perhaps if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool War-Movie freak my personal opinions on this TV show seem both ill-informed and overdramatic. But I’ll bravely share them anyway!
This show is PHENOMENAL. And not because of plot, or because it’s colorful and viscerally engaging (it’s possibly the closest thing to an anti-euphoria out there), but god, it’s just so chock-full of WAR. I don’t know about you guys but personally I don’t really think about World War II that often because I'm, you know, worried about World War III and also just getting along with the small worries of my day-to-day life.
But there’s something about being confronted with the brutal reality of War with a capital “w” that really shook me out of my COVID haze and dropped me right on the shores of the Atlantic Theater. "Band of Brothers" is not really super funny, there’s no real main character — all the characters you start to care about get shot or bombed pretty quickly — and there isn’t much of a plot to speak of other than like, men doing War and Waiting to do War … but there’s something about this show that I can’t put my finger on that makes it compulsively watchable.
This is me speaking from a place of privilege, but personally I’ve been raised in a time in the media where I feel as though I am Oppressively Represented. I can turn on any Netflix-Amazon-Disney+ Original from the Streaming Industrial Complex and see the trials and tribulations of me and my peers, in all our LGBTQ+ glory. This is a controversial assessment, as I am very aware that representation in the media could be a lot stronger, but in my personal opinion I find there is a plethora of shows about teenagers and young adults dealing with both the small challenges of life as well as the big ones like drugs and sex and polyamory and secondary education etc. etc. (see: "Euphoria"). TV has always been obsessed with teens, and teens have always been obsessed with TV.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show like this, where it’s literally only white men wrestling and attacking one another and shooting guns and running up hills and stuff and just guys being dudes. I know this sentence is basically a description of all media that was ever produced up until about five years ago, but somehow I never managed to really sit down and connect with a movie about a group of sweaty, ragged, verge-of-death white men until my early twenties. I don’t think I’m really selling this show well but I promise you it’s good.
I guess the biggest thing I love about this show is just how intense it is and how life-or-death the stakes are. It both feels remote from me, due to the fact that I am (if you can believe it!) not a soldier and not at war, while also feeling very close to home, because you really get to see the way that regular men react to situations of extreme pressure and conflict. There’s the run-of-the-mill military-mandated heroism and glorification of violence, or course, but what I found unexpected was the level of tenderness, care and vulnerability also present across all these characters. The characters in "Band of Brothers" — while I can’t remember any of their names since as I mentioned they’re all white men and they’re all wearing the same outfit — still feel remarkably human and painfully close. I spent most of the first couple of episodes panicking that my younger brother would get drafted someday, since I couldn’t help but see his face in the faces of all these men.
There’s a reason it feels so real — it is! All the characters and events were meticulously researched and are nearly entirely based on real paratrooper’s experiences. And these men are interviewed at the beginning of every episode, which just drives home the fact that all of this ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
Still not sold on this ten-hour mini-series? Ease yourself into the madness with the hornier cousin of "Band of Brothers", "the Pacific," another ten-hour miniseries focusing on the Pacific Theater during World War Two. Rami Malek’s in a couple of episodes, and if that’s not enough, he’s also shirtless.
Watching "Band of Brothers" in the year 2022 is a radical and subversive act simply due to the fact that it is such a traditional show. Like it’s straight up about history and war and not much else, and I’m realizing that’s really all you need! As much as I love the contemporary television trends towards $3 million production design and relentlessly aesthetically-pleasing lighting design, sometimes it’s nice to just watch guys get shot in the ugliest parts of Europe you can imagine. It drives home the reality and horror of warfare, which is not something I think about too often. I found it a little harder to wallow in my COVID self-pity after watching people die for an hour every night. And if you’ve read this far in this article and you’re asking yourself, is this article satire? At this point I could not tell you.
I know for a fact that this shift in perspective is entirely temporary, as I have probably already complained to everyone around me about four to five menial annoyances within the time it took to type up this article. But it’s still a nice shift to experience, even if only for the ten-hour runtime of the show. Or perhaps, maybe all I’ve learned is that I need to stop exclusively watching vaseline-lensed fuzzy-grain teen dramas and queue up some "Dunkirk" from time to time.