The Pacific, Sky Movies
The Man Who Cycled the Americas, BBC1

Steven Spielberg has spent $230m getting his new war epic all dressed up – but is it going anywhere?

The first casualty in war, so they say, is the truth. In the case of the Second World War, there's a pretty good chance that the wounded truth limps into the tender care of Doctor Steven Spielberg, to be tended to, operated on, nursed and returned to its feet looking, one suspects, better than it ever did. But whether that's entirely in the interests of the patient is another question.

In the film Saving Private Ryan, the TV series Band of Brothers and now that series' palm-fringed successor, The Pacific, Spielberg continues his project, with co-executive producer Tom Hanks, to fight the "good war" all over again – albeit with 20 catering trucks and a couple of chamber orchestras just behind the front line. He certainly has the war chest: $230m has been lavished on The Pacific, a 10-part account of the American role in driving back Japanese imperial forces in the Far East, making it the most expensive TV series ever.

Unfortunately, the producers also have another foe to tackle: ignorance of what millions of Allied forces got up to in the so-called "Pacific Theatre" from 1943. (And let's not sneer at the ignorance of American audiences. How many of us have the first clue about the horrific campaign fought by British and Commonwealth forces in Burma?)

The result is that the first episode of The Pacific has all the complexity of a bayonet charge: here's a few US marines, there they are parting from their families in America, look at them hustling ashore from a landing craft on to the beaches of Guadalcanal off the Solomon Islands, here's a map in case you didn't know the Solomon Islands were just north of Australia (I didn't). And then let the fighting begin.

The problem is that Spielberg and Hanks don't have a spectacle such as D-Day to splurge their dollars on. That terrifying landing-craft sequence in Saving Private Ryan is here replayed, knowingly, as anticlimax, the terrified Marines spilling on to the beach to be assaulted by nothing more forbidding than the wisecracks of those already there: "What took ya so long?" And those pesky damned Japanese only come out of their fox-holes at night – the light's terrible and their uniforms are a mess!

Which isn't to say that there isn't much else to focus on. The Pacific conflict was, apparently, characterised by a racial hatred between the opposing sides, quite unlike that in Europe. (Though did anyone tell the Russians and the Germans that?) A couple of American war dead are shown, tortured and mutilated by the Japanese. By way of dutiful editorial balance, a Japanese soldier is toyed with brutally before the coup de grâce is delivered. And the fighting, when it takes place, is as thrillingly staged and choreographed as you might expect.

But in its earnest desire to "educate" its audience and "honour" the undoubtedly immense effort of the Allied war veterans, The Pacific, you might say, succumbs to "friendly fire". Lantern-jawed commanding officers appear to be on secondment from the comic Warlord, and as for the Japanese, they've yet to reach the psychological complexity of Spielberg's comedy caper 1941 (which is curiously omitted from the press notes' official biography).

As one hellish trudge along the Pacific rim began, another was concluding in The Man Who Cycled the Americas. Last week saw Mark Beaumont's third and final film of his 13,000-mile, nine-month attempt to cycle from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, climbing the highest peak in each of North and South America along the way.

The producers, via Bill Paterson's voice-over, repeated ad nauseam that no one else had ever attempted such a feat, prompting the inevitable question: er, why would anyone have ever bothered? And Beaumont's occasional diversions to local attractions (hill-billy music festivals, tequila slamming, coffee roasting) were another distraction.

No, this programme's virtue was Beaumont himself, a sunny, uncomplicated Scot with only the mildest of interest in engaging with anyone he met (he spoke comically little Spanish). He was clearly happiest spinning along in a Zen state of perpetual revolution, and it's been a bit of a late-night treat each week to watch him doing so.

After the recent film of Eddie Izzard's attempt to to complete 43 consecutive marathons, how about a new sub-genre? The physical endurance feat as existential psycho-drama. This one will run and run.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering