Generation Kill, an HBO seven-part mini-series about the invasion of Iraq that begins on Sunday, “is bold, uncompromising and oddly diffident,” writes the N.Y. Times‘ Alessandra Stanley. “It maintains impeccable dignity even as it tracks a group of shamelessly and engagingly profane, coarse and irreverent marines, members of an elite reconnaissance battalion that spearheaded the invasion.
“[Though] a true story of combat and male bonding, Generation Kill is told disjointedly and atonally, perhaps because it pursues clashing goals. It tries to honor the ordeal — and the humanity — of its heroes while exposing the futility of their quest.
“It was written by David Simon and Ed Burns, the team behind The Wire, and was adapted from the prizewinning book by Evan Wright, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone who was embedded with Bravo Company for the duration of the assault.
“The script is faithful to Mr. Wright√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s account, respectful of the soldiers he befriended and as opaque and ascetic as The Wire, an opus that forced viewers to parse multiple plots and a huge cast of characters without directions or subtitles.
“The odyssey of these men from training tents in Kuwait to occupied Baghdad is laid out with brutal candor and without the aid of maudlin cinematography or emotive music. The closest thing to a thematic score is the starched, staticky clatter of radio traffic: ‘Roger that’ and ‘This is Hit Man II, over.’
“Restraint can be as important to a serious television drama as it is to art collecting or the dinner table. Particularly when the subject is as raw as war, sentimentality or florid emotionalism can offend and even repel viewers. Its exercise can be a sign of respect and sensitivity, but it can also seem smug, a veiled form of one-upmanship.
√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúWith its superb cast and script, Generation Kill provides a searingly intense, clear-eyed look at the first stage of the war, and it is often gripping. But like a beautiful woman who swathes herself in concealing clothes and distracting hats, the series fights its own intrinsic allure.”
What’s wrong with atonal, disjointed, distracting, smug, etc.? I could go for that.