Generation Kill Review: Universal Soldiers

October 7, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

tv-stars-4GENERATION KILL EPISODE 1: Channel 4, Wed 7th October, 11:20pm Alert Me

HBO have an extremely good track record of putting out quality drama series.

They’ve brought us the superlative Sopranos, Sex and the City and “best thing on TV?, The Wire. So the bar’s been set pretty high.

Generation Kill comes out of the same stable. Adapted by Wire creators David Simon and Ed Burns from the book written by embedded Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright, the mini-series follows the troops of First Recon in the early stages of the current Iraq War.

We’re presented with an unglorified warts and all depiction of the escalating conflict; everything from the shortages of equipment to the casual racism and conflict between the alpha-male squaddies, a world where the thought of imminent death is less troubling than a world without J-Lo and where boredom is more of a problem than being shot.

This first episode acts as an introduction to the troops, highly trained but itching to get some trigger time, almost boiling over with frothing testosterone but it’s often hard to tell each squaddie apart – uniforms, helmets and a moustache growing competition does not distinctive characters make.

That said, it is impeccably acted, and everyone from the white trash racist loudmouth to the booming southern drawl of the grooming obsessed sergeant major, fits perfectly into the sand-blasted landscape. It’s hard not to think of Generation Kill as a kind of updated and serialised Full Metal Jacket but invoking that comparison would be to do it an injustice.

What it does have in common with FMJ is its uncompromising view of what it is to be a marine and the result is claustrophobic and real. It makes an ideal TV companion piece to the excellent The Hurt Locker which was out earlier this year, which has a similar emphasis on military realism (in the same way that WWII mini-series Band of Brothers is a good companion to Saving Private Ryan).

Special mention should go to the sound and cinematography which has a production value that only a well-funded American drama can have; you can practically smell the sweat and feel the heat of the desert. With the wry and often crooked wit of the men of First Recon (who often give quotes that sound too good to be true, “Lack of pussy is the root cause of all global instability?), it’s an entertaining and often funny insight into these men’s worlds but also a profoundly unsettling one.

This being the first episode, no one’s been shot yet but expect that to change rapidly in the next few weeks.

Jez Sands

Roly Quesnel says:

Reality show this isn’t. Its too well produced, too well acted, too full of good looking hunks and clean uniforms to be anything more than a well written drama. A trawl of Youtube will give you the best idea of what that war was really like. If the guy who made Cloverfield and Blairwitch did a job on the war with the trusty handicam, then maybe you’d get something realistic. A triumph of style over content, although a narrow one because the writing is sharp as a razor, but way too full of meaning and irony to be truly reflective of the gruntspeak common to your average marine.