Chapter 53 – Shooting up
“As a work reflecting World War II, ‘The Pacific’ faced enormous challenges. Not only are there masterpieces like “Saving Private Ryan,” “Letters from Iwo Jima” and other films, but also outstanding mini-series like “Band of Brothers.” The theme of war is presented to the audience from all aspects, which not only requires the production team to break through and innovate, but also to make new breakthroughs on the basis of the existing works.
And “The Pacific” achieved this.
This mini-series focuses on three main characters: Robert Leckie, Eugene Sledge, and John Basilone. The show can be divided into two parts: the first five episodes narrated by Robert Leckie reflect the direct impact of the pain of war on soldiers, from physical injuries to shattered humanity; the latter five episodes, with Eugene Sledge as the main protagonist, reflect the profound impact of the continuous battlefield on every participant, not only on the allies but also on the enemies, not only on the battlefield but also in all aspects of life.
In addition, the story of John Basilone, a well-known American war hero, is interspersed with clues that focus on the stark contrast between life and death, especially when the cold cruelty of the main battlefield occurs simultaneously with the singing and dancing on American soil, making it all the more saddening.
The true soul of “The Pacific” lies in Eugene Sledge. In the first five episodes, Robert’s confusion and wandering laid the foundation for the story, presenting a cruel battlefield full of devastation. John intertwined the battlefield with life on the home front and, as the linchpin, transferred the weight of the first half of the story to the ideological sublimation of the second half. Finally, all the weight fell on Eugene’s shoulders, and it was up to him to complete the “thinking.”
This is also the fundamental reason for the uneven quality of the show.
The first half of the story has too many setups and clues, and the thematic ideas were not very clear, which not only caused the rhythm of the series to be slightly chaotic, but also the reflection brought by the war scenes was intermittent and unable to truly connect with the audience. However, in the second half, after all the clues converge on Eugene, the condensed thematic idea finally exploded with powerful energy: What can war really bring? Survival and death? Victory and defeat? Honor and shame?
Eugene Sledge told us that it is far more than that.
Every time hands are stained with fresh blood, a piece of the soul will lose a corner, until finally losing oneself and unable to find the way back; every time it witness a killing, the mind becomes numb, the darkness and cruelty of human nature are pushed to the extreme, and after losing trust, one gradually becomes a beast; every time dancing on the edge of life and death, the past life becomes more distant, and standing behind witnessing everything is not comparable to the personal experience of fighting bloodily, no one can understand that feeling unless they truly stand on the battlefield, gradually forcing themselves to get isolated from their previous life and wander.
The true cruelty of war lies in tearing apart the soul, destroying their humanity, and severing their connections with family, friends, lovers, and society, like a footless bird stranded on a deserted island, they can only move forward continuously, because they only know how to move forward continuously, they just fight and kill, completely losing the control of themselves in this entire process.
This loneliness and pain are more terrifying than war itself, crueler than PTSD, and bloodier than life and death, because it tears society into countless fragments, making it difficult to put the broken pieces back together.
In fact, this is the core idea of the entire work of “The Pacific”, Robert Leckie is like this, John Basilone is like this, Eugene Sledge is like this, and many other characters are like this. However, Renly Hall, the 20-year-old actor who played Eugene Sledge, gave him more vivid vitality, presenting the entire process vividly and realistically, cruelly and coldly.
With every bit of pain, every collision, every wound, even every step, it can be seen with one’s own eyes that the light in those eyes dims a bit, as if another corner of the soul has been torn apart, without heartbreaking screams, without struggling and crying out to the heavens, without numbness and indifference, but the delicate emotions present a shocking sensation that lets every audience clearly feel the grandeur and magnificence of the ups and downs of life.
Before even realizing it, tears have already filled the eyes, and the emotions deep in the heart surge, following every move of Eugene.
This powerful performance has revived the brilliance of “The Pacific”! It was so brilliant that it can even rank among classics!
Why is it that the series can continue to rise and eventually become a classic in the later part of the story, despite the controversy it faced in the first half? Objectively speaking, the overall framework of the series plays a decisive role, after all, it is an ensemble work, with the outstanding performances in every aspect that when combined the outstanding overall quality can be achieved!
However, without Renly, everything is incomplete. As Tom Hanks said at the premiere, Renly is the “soul” of “The Pacific”. Not only does he carry the weight of the story, but he is also the key to sublimation. Success and failure come from the efforts of the entire production team, but the credit for this classic belongs to Renly.”
This film review came from Kyle Smith of The Wall Street Journal. He didn’t rush to write his review, but waited until the series was over before speaking up. For a mini-series, DVD sales are the main event, and normal broadcasting doesn’t indicate anything, so he could take his time.
Kyle gave “The Pacific” a high rating of 95, which made the media review of the series surpass “Band of Brothers” unexpectedly, although it was only ahead by one point with a rating of 87. For once controversial “The Pacific,” this is truly unbelievable.
Although this is only the opinion of The Wall Street Journal, and although most film critics still refuse to admit that the improvement in the popularity of “The Pacific” was due to Renly, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that the audience’s evaluation of “The Pacific” was truly starting to climb, and the most direct and obvious rise in evaluation is undoubtedly the IMDb rating.
At its lowest point, the rating was only 7.3. For ambitious HBO, this was a complete disaster. However, after the sixth episode was aired and the number of raters gradually increased, the rating began to slowly climb. When the ninth episode was finished, the rating had returned to 8.5!
8.5 points is still a long way from the unbeatable 9.5 points of “Band of Brothers,” but for “The Pacific,” which has experienced ups and downs, it is a news worth celebrating.
This rating has already propelled “The Pacific” into the top 100 of Top Classic TV Shows of All Time, and once again wrote the undefeated myth of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
From 7.3 to 8.5, from the fourth episode to the ninth episode, the world underwent earth-shaking changes in this short period of time, and the discussion threads on Yahoo Community changed completely.
After the live broadcast of the ninth episode ended, William opened the thread on Yahoo Community and eagerly posted his own opinion.
“When the rich boy tenderly held the nameless woman in his arms, I suddenly couldn’t help but break down. I can’t describe in words what the rich boy has experienced, but I really felt the warmth that was almost disappearing deep in his heart: gently, bitterly, softly, painfully, bloody, vicissitudes of life, confused, and scarred, he stuck the life that was about to disappear to his chest. Until this moment, I realized that the cruelest thing about war is not death, because everything ends after death. What is truly terrifying is living, carrying the sacrifices of all comrades, the passing of innocent lives, and the bloodshed of destroying the enemy, continuing to live in this cold world.”
As he typed, William suddenly broke down, tears streaming down his face, he did not feel like this even when he watched “Band of Brothers” before.
“Band of Brothers” can make people’s blood boil, and can also make people cry, but the success of that work lies in describing the brotherhood of fighting side by side. That kind of emotion was enough to make every man crazy, but the audience’s connection to individual characters was weak. However, “The Pacific” is different. It is a more personal work about Robert, about John, and about Eugene. The suffering they endured is reflected in every soldier and silently protests against war.
In “The Pacific”, this close connection made William unable to extricate himself and he deeply indulged in the emotions of the characters. When he saw the light of tears in Eugene’s eyes, gentle as the breeze of March, tears that he quickly concealed, and the pain and struggle between his eyebrows swallowed all the sadness, the burst of waves and storms at that moment attacked and defeated William.
“Rich boy sat quietly, woodenly squatting in place, holding a corpse that had lost its temperature. At that moment, even time couldn’t bear to make any noise. Jesus Christ, I love that Rich Boy, I love ‘The Pacific’, this is a better work than ‘Band of Brothers’. I swear, I’m not lying.”
When William read the thread, he scanned it and then saw the familiar nickname “Brando Fanatic”. He couldn’t help but smile, it seems that he is not the only one who feels this way.
“Perfect, absolutely perfect! Just based on Rich Boy’s performance alone, ‘The Pacific’ is worth of all praise!”
“To hell with Hanks and Spielberg! I’m just watching this show for Eugene!”
“I can’t believe it, really can’t believe it! Today’s episode was so wonderful, the rating of the whole series has gone up another level! ‘The Pacific’ can finally be regarded as a classic, because of only one reason: Eugene Sledge.”
As the final episode of the series was about to air, people suddenly realized that, even if they were unwilling to admit it, even if it was incredible, but the fact was that the name “Eugene Sledge” was shining brightly, almost single-handedly pulling “The Pacific” back from the cliff and pushing it to its peak!
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