Monday, July 21, 2008

Generation Kill, "Cradle of Civilization": Everything turns to poo

Briefer than I'd like (hey, it's press tour, and Coolio is being really loud outside my window) spoilers for episode two of "Generation Kill" coming up just as soon as I earn my stories...

As First Recon really pushes into Iraq, at one point becoming the northernmost-unit of the invasion, we begin to get a sense of just how FUBAR the entire operation is. Or maybe that's just the way it seems from ground level.

The mission they've been training for gets scrubbed, with no real explanation. Godfather and Sgt. Major Sixta continue to push for the shaving of the moostashes -- and Sixta finds a way to do it that completely kills all the buzz from second platoon surviving the ambush -- and we start to see just how much Godfather is motivated by a desire to do something glamorous and exciting to impress General Matis (played by Hey! It's That Guy! Robert John Burke), regardless of whether it makes sense for his men. They're still inadequately supplied, and after Fick is assured that they'll enter a town under cover of night, we immediately cut to the Marines entering in the daytime. Captain America gets hold of an enemy AK-47 and begins firing it indiscriminately -- never a good idea in a combat zone, given how the Marines are trained to differentiate the sound of their own weapons from those of the enemy, right?

And yet, within that, we begin to get a sense of just how good and smart the Recon Marines themselves are. One of my favorite moments in the episodes I've seen comes the bit where they're rolling through the town, and Colbert reassures Trombley not to panic, without even needing to turn around to see either Trombley or whatever it was that Trombley was apparently scared of. This is a man who pays such close attention to detail that he judges the quality of his bowel movements to help assess his combat readiness; this is a man you do not want to mess with, I think.

(This episode had going number two on its mind quite a bit -- albeit all of it drawn from the book -- as we also got the whole bit about leaving toilet paper and other detritus around versus the neatness of the Afghanistan mission, as well as the Iraqi woman watching a Marine casually take a dump in her yard.)

I'm not sure, to be honest, how much I care for the scenes that are just of Godfather, or Godfather with Mattis, etc. Evan Wright's explanation for why the miniseries is more opaque than the book is that Simon wanted to put us into the heads of the Marines on the ground, and/or Wright himself, and that all the explanatory details about the mission and what's happening away from Colbert's Humvee is stuff that Wright found out way after the fact. And if that's the case, then that makes thematic sense. But then throwing in material about the higher-ups, stuff that the Recon Marines aren't privy to (as opposed to a briefing that Fick might attend) seems to go against the spirit of that. I'd rather the storytelling either adopted an entirely Colbert-centric point of view or else became omniscient enough that some of the chain of command stuff helped to clarify exactly what was going on.

Getting back to Colbert, it's really interesting to observe the dynamic inside the Humvee. Because he's so good at what he does, and because he carries himself in a certain way, his humor sneaks up on you. When he busts on Trombley for knocking up his girlfriend, it sounds at first almost like he's taunting him, but after a while it becomes clear that, no, that's just how Colbert sounds when he's cracking a joke. James Ransone as Person is the obvious standout performance in the mini, but I'm really enjoying watching Alexander Skarsgard work.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I kind of disagree with you assessment of following Godfather. It's possible that it just might be because I'm enamored with the actor's performance, but I enjoy his storyline. I also don't think his final monologue would've carried as much weight if we hadn't previously seen Mattis chewing out the other commander in front of him.

Anonymous said...

Which one is Person? Is he the chatterbox with the pimped-out glasses? I haven't gotten everyone's names down yet, but I love the little chatterbox.

Mrglass said...

Who knew war was so boring? That episode was a bit disappointing after the excellent premiere.

Just like in 'The Wire' there are many characters, but here not one of them seems to do much. How long can you watch Humvees drive in the desert before zoning out?

Anonymous said...

James Ransone is the chatterbox / driver in the lead humvee...aka "Ziggy" from The Wire.

Anonymous said...

Watching the marines go through that town, knowing the division before them were under heavy fire was terrifying, even from my living room. I cannot imagine why open HumVees were the choice vehicle for this invasion--the gunners seemed so vulnerable, especially with the enemy having the advantage of height and cover in the buildings.

Ransone, Skarsgaard, and the actor playing Fick are fantastic. Especially Fick. He manages to look about 20 years old and have the calm confidence of someone much older. I also think Tergensen is doing a great job with very little dialogue.

I find the actual missions confusing, but the characters are so strong, I don't mind being a little lost.

Unknown said...

I find the actual missions confusing

So did the Marines carrying them out.

Anonymous said...

A nice touch was the half-consumed pack of Charms in the burned out Humvee.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with SkarsgÄrd really coming into his own. His discussion with the disoriented soldier ["hey buddy, you need anything?"] was painful to watch. And, on another note, a big line for me was "we didn't see what the captain saw". Ties into them taking the wrong turn and ending up in a field.

Impressed with the way it has been shot as well. The scenes in the city were confusing and maybe a little scary, the tire treads rolling over the blood pools were creepy and the end shot ["Officers will be the death of us yet"] when they walk towards the city in siege speaks to me of terrible things to come.

I didn't notice until the second watch-through that the translator had a "moose"-tache. They didn't trust him the first time they saw him, his translation is being questioned, and if it isn't shaved off next episode I can't feel very optimistic about his future.

Ziggy being on the debate team? Haha, I'd love to see that!

Anonymous said...

A nice touch was the half-consumed pack of Charms in the burned out Humvee.

Would someone please refresh my memory as to the significance of Charms?


Anonymous said...

Charms are supposed to be bad luck for Marines, but I don't know why.

SJ said...

I'm loving the Iceman. It's just as I expected him to be.

GPS said...

from marines magazine online...

These hard candies might be a good find for a long hike, but it is taboo to enjoy these tasty treats when you’re out in the field. Legend has it that eating these flavored candies will cause bad weather or bring misfortune upon those who chose to break the wrapper’s seal. For some units, this superstition is so strong that if the candy is spotted in a meal ready to eat, Marines will discard the treats without a second thought. Those not concerned with notions of bad luck hide their Charms from the superstitious.

found the other superstitions interesting reads as well, enjoy