It is said that the best drama is derived from conflict, either figuratively or literally, and that is certainly the case with HBO’s seminal seven-part series Generation Kill.
Based on the works of Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright, who wrote from behind enemy lines with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the United States Marine Corps on the cusp of the second invasion of Iraq in 2003, the series has an immediacy and rawness that spans twenty-eight leading cast members and a panoply of supporting cast, typically drawn from the rank and file of those who actually served there.
The series starts on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom and quickly paints the picture of an ill-equipped but highly disciplined army, with the constant threat of gas attacks hanging heavy over their heads, who have often used their own money to finance vital supplies and kit for their Humvees due to lack of proper financing from the government (consistently criticised and lambasted, yet also saluted on every day of the soldiers’ serving lives). The comparison of the military to a pitbull (“They beat us and mistreat us, but occasionally allow us out to kill someone”) is an apt one; there is a constant and palpable threat that hangs in the air over the most routine operation.
As the show develops, its attention focuses on the vehicle members of Bravo Company, which Wright was assigned to, namely Sergeant Brad “Iceman” Colbert (superbly played by Alexander Skarsgard) and his team of Corporal Person and Lance Corporal Trombley. The become the eyes of the viewer as they are deployed throughout Iraq on various missions, though the ensemble nature of the piece, familiar to anyone who has seen the other great works of co-creators David Simon and Ed Burns (The Wire and The Corner) will know that they will be rewarded if they are able to keep a handle on all of the supporting players, however overwhelming at first.
Vital and chaotic from the outset to the searing conclusion, Generation Kill feels like modern warfare. How close it actually was may be questionable, but as a landmark TV drama, it’s essential viewing. This newly released Blu-ray edition, with its hyper-realistic picture, just adds to the show’s all-consuming reality.
Released on Blu-ray on 5th July 2010 by HBO Home Entertainment.