Changi vs Band of Brothers

December 1st, 2003 DVD Reviews, Film, Filmink


Distributor: ABCx0AFeatures: Commentary of Episode 6 by writer John Doyle and director Kate Woods

Band of Brothers

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Features: Making of documentary, Men of Easy Company documentary, Men of Easy Company footage bios, Ron Livingston’s video diaries, HBO Normandy memorial premiere promo, Jeep promo.

It’s war!

The recent obsession with WW2 comes to life again, from two different angles and to varying levels of success.

Recent ABC hit Changi builds a bridge between the suffering of a group of friends at a Japanese POW camp in Singapore and their struggles to deal with their experience now that they’re all card carrying Seniors.

It’s a small scale and low key but good story to tell, rendered a little ridiculous at times by dialogue that feels slightly pinched and the camera depicting each mans’ flashback/visions (the sight of a cruel Japanese officer herding a bunch of cardigan-wearing pensioners out of their barracks borders on comedy).

In seemingly true ABC style, the extras are far from comprehensive — there’s a single commentary by the writer and director during the last episode.

At the other end of the budgetary and emotional spectrum is Band of Brothers, the ten part mini-series produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

Made for American cable station HBO on a budget that surpasses most films — even Hollywood ones — (US$120m) it tells the story of Easy Company, the world’s first paratroop unit, who parachuted into German territory in France as part of the D-Day invasion.

With all the ‘harrowing’ and ‘gut-wrenching’ of Saving Private Ryan, it’s certainly a powerhouse, but the desire of American film-makers to kowtow to their former soldiers as super-courageous and selfless Gods gets tiresome. The veneration isn’t unjustified — just overindulged — and as usual, America forgets that soldiers from plenty of other countries were well trained, selfless and died.

But apart from the jingoism, the planning, sets, effects and post-production that have gone into Band of brothers are staggering, and the disc extras worthy.

A documentary of Easy Company with the surviving members is fairly moving. The Making Of documentary is fascinating despite a very MTV delivery. Cast member Ron Livingston (Office Space) was given a video camera and told to record a video diary of the project — a bit hokey and seemingly out of place with a mini series of such serious subject matter.

There’s a short bio on each character by way of a snippet of footage, a self-congratulatory promotional wank by HBO (showing the premiere to WW2 veterans at the Normandy Beach memorial on the anniversary of D Day), and an ad for Jeep (presumably because of some product placement or other).

Band of Brothers is the better film and disc, but to be fair, Changi wasn’t aiming for the same lofty heights — instead opting for a simple story of a bunch of blokes trying to get on in life.

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