There’s a story that goes round suggesting that barely a father in the land hasn’t received the Band Of Brothers boxset at some point in their life, be it for Christmas, birthday or Father’s day. But sat next to novelty cards, a coffee made from the hot tap or some golfing novelties, it’s the kind of gift that you simply can’t turn your nose up at. For Band Of Brothers is a superb mini-series, that brutally follows the adventures of Easy Company, of the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division.
Set at the time of the second World War, it starts with the training segments, giving an against-type role for David Schwimmer as the bastard drill instructor (something that’s tailed neatly at the end of the series), and across the ten episodes we meet and follow the young soldiers, many of whom don’t make it to the end.
Band Of Brothers is relentless in its portrayal of the horrors and futility of war, as characters you’ve grown to warm to are suddenly cut down, with no warning whatsoever. This, clearly, doubles the challenge to the scriptwriters, who have to continue to round out the faces we see with three dimensional characters, but their work is quite brilliant here. Relationships are formed and torn apart, against a storyline recalling some key moments from the war.
It’s not just the script that sets Band Of Brothers apart, though. The young cast, led by Damien Lewis, are for the most part quite superb, especially as some of them progress from the rabbit-in-the-headlights earlier episodes to the wiser heads we meet nearer the end. The direction and production values too are terrific, with some notable Hollywood helmers stepping in to direct individual episodes. Tom Hanks takes one, for instance, while it’s great to see Phil Alden Robinson directing anything. In there too is David Frankel, now best known for The Devil Wears Prada, but previously responsible for a few episodes of the earlier miniseries From Earth To The Moon.
The earlier boxset release of Band Of Brothers was strong, with an exhaustive collection of extras – including a substantive documentary – that have been carried across to this new release. Added to the Blu-ray are picture-in-picture video commentaries, and an interesting interactive field guide.
However, the key reason most will be hunting down a Blu-ray release is to see in what shape the series will arrive when it hits high definition. And like the limited release HD DVD of last year, this is a stunning piece of work. The picture quality, particularly for a television project, is outstanding, radiating with detail. It picks up grain from time to time, but that was a deliberate feature of the production. The audio, presented in DTS HD, is even better.
It’s taken some time for the Blu-ray release of Band Of Brothers to roll around, granted, but it really is some piece of work. And for once, if an army of dads across the country get a present given to them again, this time in high definition, it’s hard to believe that there’ll be a single murmur of complaint.
An outstanding series, wonderfully presented.
The Feature:The Discs: