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Generation Kill (Complete Season 1) - Review

Generation Kill

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

GIVEN the praise that has been showered upon The Wire, you’d have forgiven series co-creators David Simon and Ed Burns for taking a break, or at least struggling to match such very high standards.

With Generation Kill, however, they prove themselves to be virtually peerless in terms of quality. In short, they continue to elevate American TV to new heights, displaying intelligence, a flair for dialogue and a keen eye for character detail in everything they do.

Generation Kill is a first-hand narrative account of the young Marines of the First Reconnaissance Battalion at the beginning of the American military’s march into Iraq. Based on the best-selling and award-winning non-fiction account of the same name by Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright, the journalist embedded in the lead Humvee of First Recon’s Bravo Company’s Second Platoon, the seven-part series is a precise retelling of the early weeks of the military campaign from the point of view of the guys on the ground: the non-commissioned officers and platoon-level commanders who led the way to Baghdad.

Real events are depicted. Real names are used. And, where possible, the film employs the precise dialogue reported by Wright and the filmmakers in order to authentically recreate the journey of Bravo Two Marines riding from the Kuwait border into the slums of Baghdad.

It’s a masterclass in writing; an eye-opening expose of the near-constant f**k-ups that took place throughout the campaign, and an intriguing insight into modern combat and the plight of the modern soldier.

It’s also a finely acted, frequently tense and consistently powerful journey into the heart of darkness, confusion and moral complexity that is Iraq.

Of the cast members to shine most brightly (and believe me, there isn’t a bad performances), Alexander Skarsgad excels as the usually level-headed Iceman (aka Sgt Brad Colbert), whose gradual disillusioment with the ineptitude of his top brass, and the rogue practices of some of his fellow Marines, gives rise to some erratic lapses in judgement.

James Ransone also shines as Captain Josh Ray Person, the livewire of the outfit who is continually prone to brilliantly realised rants/observations on Iraq, the war on terror and country music. Stark Sands is terrific as the level-headed Lt Nathaniel Fick, whose decision to call some of his orders into question lands him in trouble, and Lee Tergesen is excellent as the bewildered Evan ‘Scribe’ Wright, the Rolling Stone journalist who watches in amazement as events unfold, while slowly bonding with his colleagues.

And let’s not forget, either, the lesser heroic characters, such as Chance Kelly’s gravel-throated Lt Col Stephen ‘Godfather’ Fernando, whose leadership shows increasing signs of bad judgement, and Eric Nenninger, who takes cluelessness to new levels of brilliance as Capt Dave ‘Captain America’ McGraw.

Each one of the seven episodes was tightly constructed, brilliantly shot and superbly well written, with the dialogue often hilarious in the sharpness of the exchanges.

The battle sequences, too, were head-spinning in their authenticity, expertly depicting the confusion of combat, while the grim reality of the less heroic aspects of war were displayed in unflinching fashion.

This is a war series to rival the best that the genre has to offer, whether its movies like Saving Private Ryan (minus the sentimentality) and Black Hawk Down or series like Band of Brothers. The final episode, in particular, was highly emotional and deeply thought-provoking, as tempers finally frayed among the Company while in Baghdad.

Indeed, so brilliant was this series that you actually felt sad leaving the characters behind. So, in recalling one of the Marines’ most often used watch-terms, when it comes to this DVD release of Generation Kill, you most definitely will want to “get some”.

View photos from the series

Certificate: 18
Running time: 362mins
UK DVD Release: March 9, 2009