Steven Spielberg's fixation with the Second World War continues. He has given us Band of Brothers, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and 1941 and he is on board here, along with Tom Hanks, as a producer. This costly ($150m) and lovingly-crafted HBO mini-series charts the true experiences of three US Marines – Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), John Basilone (Jon Seda) and Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello, the boy in Jurassic Park) in the Pacific theatre of war.
The Pacific is not as instantly gripping as Band of Brothers and it takes a while for the viewer to get a handle on who's who. The first two episodes focus on four months of fighting – "We've been swallowed by the jungle and 5,000 Japs ready to kill us" – on the island of Guadalcanal, and most of the battles occur at night. No doubt it is all authentic, but in the dark it is well-nigh impossible to make out who is shooting whom. The grimy and beleaguered soldiers look remarkably similar.
However, the story picks up in the third episode, when our "heroes" take shore leave in Melbourne. Their characters begin to develop and you start to care, for Mazzello's Eugene in particular.
The Pacific, like Saving Private Ryan, captures the cruelty, futility, and camaraderie of war. It needs a less cloying score, but the scenes dealing with the Battle of Okinawa are sensationally orchestrated. A little patience is well rewarded.