Pacific focus for war series

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have found a rich vein of material in the stories of World War 2, from the movie Saving Private Ryan to the more recent television series Band of Brothers.

In those works, the actor and the producer focused on the war in Europe, but their latest offering comes closer to home for New Zealand viewers.

The Pacific (TV1, from April 12), a 10-part mini-series filmed in Australia, follows American marines on their journey to Guadalcanal, the small island near the Solomons that was the site of a fiercely contested battle between the Allies and the Japanese in 1942.

World War 2 is fading fast into history, despite its constant reinvention in Hollywood and beyond, but is only one generation removed for your reviewer, and, of course, many other men and women scattered across the country.

It is easy to forget from the comfort of a peaceful Dunedin on a late summer's day that the generation that went before had their lives seriously uprooted by the war.

My own dear old Dad, Keith Loughrey, was one of those who left this city in the 1940s and was sent to Guadalcanal and the islands that surrounded it.

Although he died when I was 16, I remember hearing towards the end of his life stories of landing on islands with Japanese planes buzzing in the skies above, and the terror of patrol duty, searching for the enemy in the jungle.

This from a diminutive, gentle man who was anything but what one would imagine a soldier to be.

Can Mr Spielberg and Mr Hanks do my father's story, and the story of many others' fathers, justice?Probably not for my Dad, who came back from the war with a dislike of Americans he held for the rest of his life.

And The Pacific does lay on the emotion early, as our heroes are told by their commanding officer they would win the war through "the instinct in your gut, and the blood on your boots", as stirring, emotional music wafts through barracks full of brave young Americans.

Spielberg and Hanks, though, generally put together a good story.

Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers were entertaining outings, and The Pacific will, no doubt, follow in the footsteps of the earlier offerings.

The night-time action sequences in the first episode, lit with a staccato effect by gunfire and explosions, reach somewhat towards the heights of the now famous opening beach assault in Saving Private Ryan.

How close a television show can get to the reality of the event for those who were there, of course, is quite another matter, and one most of us are lucky enough never to have to discern.


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