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Generation Kill

Docudrama about the Iraq War shows the humanity of U.S. soldiers

By Kevin Spurgaitis

Generation Kill
Created by David Simon, Ed Burns and Evan Wright, starring Alexander Skarsgård, Stark Sands, Eric Nenninger, Brian Wade, James Ransone and Lee Tergesen

It’s the early days of the Iraq War, and an elite reconnaissance battalion moves into Baghdad, anxiously awaiting a firefight while grousing about equipment shortages and absurd grooming standards.

Adapted from a book by journalist Evan Wright, who was embedded with the U.S. Marines in Iraq for Rolling Stone magazine, this seven-part mini-series tells of the battle-forged camaraderie inside the Marine Corps’ First Recon’s Bravo Company.

This isn’t a band of brothers or even the team of doctors from M*A*S*H. Rather, it’s a young group of anti-heroes held captive by pop culture and desensitized to wartime violence.

Troops sarcastically sing pop songs and read skin magazines. They fire their weapons and, in their marine-barracks parlance, “get some.” The cultural archetypes include a Southern redneck, a Los Angeles gang member, an Ivy League graduate and even a New Age fitness buff who wants to move to San Francisco.

Under the cool leadership of Lt. Nathaniel Fick (Stark Sands) and Sgt. Brad Colbert (Alexander Skarsgård), the troops do their best to dodge the strategic mistakes of commanders such as Captain America (Eric Nenninger), a souvenir-obsessed lunatic, and Encino Man (Brian Wade), a dangerously dim-witted former football star favoured by the battalion’s top brass.

Still, civilian casualties abound: a shepherd and his camel, shot by a trigger-happy 19-year-old lance corporal; an Iraqi driver who didn’t understand the warning shots fired from a Marine checkpoint; a hamlet of women and children obliterated by a bomb. Troops look on helplessly as Baghdad is looted and children succumb to disease and chaos.

However cynical, Generation Kill still manages to show the humanity of its so-called heroes. The series highlights those prolonged moments before a firefight and the numb ones thereafter, and offers a nuanced look at young men thrown into circumstances way beyond their control. All the while, it shrewdly avoids condemning or romanticizing a war that many Americans now deem unwarranted and immoral.
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