"We're a bunch of well-built Ferraris dumped in the middle of a demolition derby."
'Generation Kill' is based on the national bestseller by Evan Wright--a Rolling Stone reporter who was embedded with the First Recon Battalion of the United States Marine Corps during the onset of the Iraq invasion in March of 2003. In his two months as an honorary member of Bravo Company, Wright had the unique opportunity to experience first-hand the hardships the troops had to endure from their initial deployment at Camp Mathilda in Kuwait to their eventual destination in Baghdad.
What makes this series so compelling is that it doesn't glorify the war effort or try to mask any of the negative details. In fact, 'Generation Kill' actually paints a pretty vivid portrait of the military's lack of preparation, proper equipment and supplies, as well as competence, as many commanders either had no clue what they were doing or unnecessarily put the lives of Marines at risk by sending them out on wild goose chases to bolster their own careers. Everything is laid out on the table just as it unfolded before Wright's eyes, warts and all.
As usual with any HBO project, the production values are spectacular. The series was filmed in Africa over the course of six months and every location was meticulously selected so that they suited each area's conditions. Wright and a few of the actual Marines like Staff Sgt. Eric Kocher and Sgt. Rudy 'Fruity Rudy' Reyes (who plays himself), served as advisors to ensure accuracy. Being heavy into fitness, Reyes was also responsible for getting the cast into prime physical shape through vigorous boot camp training. There's no shortage of military land vehicles, aircraft, and weaponry either. The filmmakers didn't skimp on anything.
The heart and soul of the series, though, is the cast. Dozens of colorful characters portray the Americans and literally hundreds of extras fill in for the civilians. Lee Tergesen plays Evan Wright, and much like his role as Tobias Beecher on HBO's 'Oz' he perfectly captures the essence of what it's like to be thrust into a whole new world. The look of awe, confusion and sheer terror is always crystal clear on his face. The rest of the actors are just as exceptional, orbiting around Wright who sort of acts as the central hub of the series. A large part focuses on the men he rode with in the lead vehicle of Bravo Company including the coolheaded Sergeant Brad 'Iceman' Colbert (Alexander Skarsgard), the motor-mouthed Corporal Josh Ray Person (James Ransone), and the cold and emotionless Lance Corporal Harold James Trombley (Billy Lush). Other notable standouts are Stark Sands as the dedicated Lt. Nathaniel Fick, Chance Kelly as the raspy-voiced Lieutenant Colonel Stephen 'Godfather' Ferrando, and this review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the psychotic Capt. Dave 'Captain America' McGraw. By the end, we love some of the characters and truly despise others, but we feel like we've gotten to know each and every one of them.
The last thing I found very intriguing with 'Generation Kill' is the absence of music. There's the odd Iraqi tune that can be heard playing on radios, and the soldiers sing their own renditions of Lovin' You or Tainted Love, but the series itself doesn't have a background score. I didn't even notice this until after I finished the first episode and heard mention of it when I started in on the commentary. If that doesn't prove without a doubt how engaging this incredible series is, I don't know what does.
Show: 5 stars
Picture quality: 5 stars
Sound quality: 5 stars
Bonus features: 4 stars