Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Thoughts ‘13—Band of Brothers: Bastogne (2001) ****

TV-MA, 64 min.
Director: David Leland
Writer: Bruce C. McKenna
Starring: Shane Taylor, Rebecca Okot, Damien Lewis, Ron Livingston, Neal McDonough, Kirk Acevedo, Bill Armstrong, Ben Caplan, Doug Cockle, Michael Cudlitz, Tony Devlin, Dale Dye, Dexter Fletcher, Scott Grimes, Frank John Hughes, Robin Laing, James Madio, Donnie Wahlberg

“Bastogne” is probably my favorite episode of the HBO World War II mini-series “Band of Brothers”. I include it in my Holiday Thoughts this year because it happens have a scene in it that takes place on Christmas Eve 1944 with the German soldiers along the front line that surrounded the American soldiers singing “Silent Night”. And boy, does it look cold there. If you’re ever feeling bitter because of the cold outside, think about what our men in uniform did for us on those cold wintry nights in Belgium, without any gloves, with limited supplies, without hot meals, and having to bed down in a hole in the ground.

But, Christmas isn’t the reason I like this episode so much. This is one of the few episodes that took focus on one character. Cpl. Eugene Roe didn’t hold a big role in the rest of the “Band of Brothers” series. He showed up every once and a while to field dress someone or watch them die. Here he takes the spotlight and the audience gets a good dose of what life as a medic was like in the 101st.

Roe is depicted as a loner of the company. He doesn’t call any of his peers by the nicknames they’ve given to each other through their hard fought victories and battles. Some of the men can’t figure out Roe’s distance. It’s never spelled out, but this must’ve been necessary for a medic to prevent the emotional terror of seeing each and every one of your friends eventually torn to shreds by shrapnel, or taken down with a bullet, or dying under their fairly rudimentary care.

The loner status is made difficult when you are depending on the rest of the company to supply you with precious goods like scissors, morphine, and bandages from their personal first aid supplies because the Allied Forces haven’t been able to get supplies to the line for weeks because of the weather. Roe befriends a nurse in the town of Bastogne, who feels the same distance from the living. The fact that these people are able to continue to try do their jobs effectively is a miracle of the fortitude of some people.

With all of this focus on just one character, the episode still is able to effectively tell the story of Easy Company’s amazing stand against the Germans at Bastogne against all probable odds. We still see enough of the cast of regulars to get a sense of how they dealt with and survived their personal struggles at Bastogne. And, appearances by General McAuliffe and Colonel Sink keep the overall perspective of the Allied progress at hand. This is one of the most remarkable episodes of one of the most remarkable dramatizations of World War II.

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