In the second part of Band of Brothers, Lt. Winters takes command of his company when they’re asked to take out German 105s firing on the beaches of Normandy. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Band of Brothers.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of war and violence/blood.
- I saw Saving Private Ryan in the theater when it first came out, and the re-creation of the D-Day invasion on the beach is one of the most vivid things I’ve ever seen. So it’s fascinating and satisfying to me that Spielberg and company chose to show a different side of the infamous battle, one that highlights why Lt. Winters was much better suited to lead Easy Company instead of Sobel.
- This is a spectacle for a number of reasons. The opening scene is haunting, and like I mentioned in the lat review, the deliberate lack of light to build this surreal sense of dread is incredible. It’s continued here as the men in the C-47 anxiously await that green light, and we watch them act out their nervous habits with increasing intensity.
- And then the explosions start hitting, and this is just terrifying. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the idea that real men did this. They jumped out of airplanes with virtually no cover at all, exposed to bullets and shrapnel flying through the air, and then they landed in a foreign country in the wrong place. Not all of them, but due to the chaotic nature of the invasion by air, it looked like a lot of pilots ordered their men out at the wrong time in order to survive. There’s a line later that claims that nearly 90% of men hadn’t made it to base camp, and knowing that makes this whole episode so much more… impressive? Like, the twelve men of Easy Company took down four or five times that in the German camp around those 105s, right? That’s unreal!
- The whole filming of “Day of Days” borders on the unreal, though. And I know that’s because watching what these men do is so unfathomable to me. I’ve never done anything like this, and because of their intense training, they all know exactly what to do under the extreme pressure of the battlefield. The camera captures this intensity and brutality with frantic precision, and it’s one of the most immersive experiences I’ve covered for this site.
- Of course, my lack of familiarity with the subject matter also means I don’t know what the fate is of any of these people, aside from Lt. Winters, who was in one of the opening interviews. (I suspect that’s why we don’t see their names, either; for newbies like myself, there’s a lot more dramatic tension if we accept that anyone on the screen could die.)
- But I was actually prepared for one plot point here! I knew that Guarnere’s grief was foreshadowing, and we see that come to fruition here when he disobeys Winters and fires before command. I got the feeling he wanted to be first to kill one of the Germans for the death of his own brother. But it’s actually important for another reason: It builds up the conflict between Guarnere and Winters so that it means more when he eventually comes to accept him by the end of the episode.
- You know, I’m guessing that scene where Malarkey chats with a German soldier from Eugene, Oregon is based on a true story. I don’t doubt that some Americans “answered the call” and fought for the wrong side. Still, holy shit, that was disturbing.
- Gods, y’all, there is barely a break in the narrative before we get to the Brécourt Manor Assault. The bulk of “Day of Days” focuses on the absolutely mind-blowing way in which Lt. Winters and his men (ONLY TWELVE TOTAL HOLY SHIT) were able to disarm all those 105s.
- I mean, how much preparation did Winters have? A few minutes. MAYBE. He assembles his men, he comes up with a brilliant plan to utilize such a small unit to take on the MUCH MUCH LARGER FORCE, and then he improvises. And watching all of this unfold was so thrilling and satisfying.
- Of course, it helps that all the intimate camera work and editing makes us feel like we were right beside Lt. Winters. My god, that whole twenty-odd-minute sequence was so good that I couldn’t figure out how they pulled it off. That looked so real! And it’s a testament to the people making Band of Brothers that this show can be as immersive as it is.
- This episode also gives us two huge moments of devastation: Meehan and his plane erupting in flames, and the death of PFC Hall. (Played by Andrew Scott!) Lord, this is not going to be an easy thing to watch.
- Truly, though, “Day of Days” is a fantastic introduction to the horrors and intensity of what these men are going to face, and it sets the tone for the remainder of these episodes. These men are extremely talented, they’re dedicated to one another, and this is only going to get worse. I don’t know the timeline of what this show covers, but I imagine that the Battle of the Bulge is going to have to make an appearance at some point, and that’s going to be… well, intense.
- All things said, this was an excellent episode that felt much more like a movie than television. The acting, the camera work, the music – it was all so terribly impressive.
- I already get why this show is titled as it is, and that scene at the end where Winters takes his first drink of wine shows us that these men only truly have one another while they live through Hell on earth.
The video for “Day of Days” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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