Binge Break: Band of Brothers still stands out 18 years later

In a guest Binge Break, I took a look back at one of the most well-made cinematic historical retellings in the history of film.

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Brooklyn Draisey, Managing Editor

I know this is kind of a deviation from the normal Binge Break content, but I’m writing this guest column just to gush about Band of Brothers, an HBO miniseries whose final episode aired 18 years ago Nov. 4, 2001.

The series tells the story of Easy Company, 506th regiment of the paratrooper Airborne Division — the men who jumped into Europe throughout the war, including D-Day — and the path of the company and its men through World War II.

While I could go on for hours about the company (I did a whole project on it in high school), the mechanics of the show make it, in my opinion, the best piece of media on WWII ever created.

The music 

I listen to the Band of Brothers score at least once a week. In fact, I’m listening to it as I’m writing this.

Michael Kamen, a composer, orchestral arranger, conductor, songwriter, and musician, created the score. He also worked on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Don Juan DeMarco, both of which had scores that were nominated for Golden Globes.

But what makes this score even better is how it’s used. Music can often be abused when it is played too often or not enough during scenes, and Band of Brothers hits just the right balance. It uses music to enhance moments without dramatizing or cheapening them. It never takes away from what’s happening on screen, just adding another layer of depth to it.

What often stands out to me even more is when the score isn’t used. Music is almost never, if at all, played during fight scenes. The show’s use of silence creates a realism that music cannot, and you don’t even notice the score stopped until the scene is over.

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The cast

First of all, the cast is huge. Since the show follows a whole company and its interactions with other members of the military, the German forces, and civilians, it had to be. The show’s IMDB page lists over 150 actors, and I recognize the names of 14 of them. Funny enough, many of the actors that were in only one or two episodes are some of the bigger names in Hollywood now.

For example, James McAvoy played a minor role in the fourth episode. Jimmy Fallon was in episode five for about three minutes. Michael Fassbender made a few appearances throughout the series, and Tom Hardy and Simon Pegg showed up in two episodes each. David Schwimmer, Andrew Scott, and Dominic Cooper also showed up at different points.

The main cast also has a few big names. Damian Lewis, who also stars in Homeland, was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Major Richard Winters. Office Space star Ron Livingston and Donnie Wahlberg also have large roles in the show. However, the majority of the main actors aren’t very well known.

This series is a great example of how star power isn’t everything. Some of the most realistic and moving performances are from actors I have never heard of, and that almost makes it more meaningful. The show doesn’t have to use star power as a crutch; it can stand just fine on its own.

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The stories

Though it had more time than a two-hour film, Band of Brothers only had 10 one-hour episodes to tell a story that spanned years. This means they had to leave some things and people out, sometimes assigning stories from multiple soldiers to one character. But there’s one thing that sets this WWII piece apart from every other story: its use of the Easy Company paratroopers themselves to tell their stories.

At the beginning of each episode, members of Easy Company introduce the events of the episode and talk about what they went through. Seeing these men tell their stories is what puts Band of Brothers ahead of every other WWII film and show I’ve seen.

The men also interacted with the actors portraying them and were consulted for the story, assuring me that this show is as accurate as it can be. Diaries of certain soldiers were even incorporated to make sure the plot was as close to reality as possible.

There are little things throughout the series that make it more than just another rose-tinted view of war and the men who fought in it. The soldiers in Easy Company weren’t saints; they were men who signed up for their own reasons and did what they had to. The military wasn’t portrayed as a perfect organization; it had flaws that were sometimes a detriment to the people in it.

I guess that’s what keeps bringing me back to watch every Veteran’s Day: the fact that this show is more than just a story. It’s real, and we get the privilege of hearing from those who were in it.

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