After the immense commercial and critical success of "The Wire", co-creators Ed Burns (not "The Brothers McMullen" one) and David Simon went on to produce "Generation Kill", a 7-part series based on the book by Evan Wright, who was an embedded journalist with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the United States Marine Corps during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Wright then went on to write "Generation Kill", which was based on his experiences and is the basis for the series.
The series follows the elite troops of the unit, with Wright (played in the series by Lee Tergesen) joining the group early on. While the Marines are initially suspicious of the newcomer from Rolling Stone, they quickly warm up to Wright when they find out some of the other things he's written. As the first episode clearly shows, the series doesn't provide distinct plots, instead dropping viewers into the middle of the experience, following the minute-to-minute, day-to-day realities that the soldiers encounter.
There's no manipulative music and the show doesn't stop for Big Important Speeches, either. Additionally, those behind the series have trusted the viewer to figure things out - there isn't a character who turns to the camera to explain all the military terminology that is frequently heard. The tension is the waiting that often happens, and the sense of dread builds as the troops head towards Baghdad (the series follows the initial roll-out towards Baghdad and a stretch of time shortly after) and scan the horizon for any potential threat. The series also finds a good deal of drama in the lack of adequate support for the troops, and the bureaucracy that they have to face to get anything done.
The series is also carried far by the performances, which are quite natural, as the actors do an excellent job getting into character - of particular note are Alexander Skarsgård and Tergesen, although all the actors are quite good in their roles. The series is honest (the language is certainly not for sensitive ears, but again, the series is going for realism), dark and powerful in its bleak, sober look at the realities of day-to-day life of brave soldiers involved in the Iraq conflict.
The set offers all 7 episodes of the series.
VIDEO: "Generation Kill" is presented by HBO Home Entertainment on Blu-Ray in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC) and the results are largely outstanding. Filmed with a gritty, stark clarity, the picture looks nothing short of remarkable, as the desolate surroundings of the desert are presented with glassy detail and definition - even small objects (texture of a uniform, sand, etc) are seen with great detail. Depth to the image is also often very good, as well.
Some light-to-mild grain - almost certainly an intentional element of the show's cinematography - is seen at times, and is handled quite well by the impressive transfer. No edge enhancement, pixelation or other concerns were noted. Colors looked natural and accurate, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show is presented with an excellent DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack. Surrounds are put into play often for detailed ambience and various sound effects (gunfire, etc.) Although some quieter stretches of the series are dialogue-driven, the more intense sequences certainly put the viewer into the middle of the action quite convincingly. Audio quality is impressive, as ambience remained pindrop-clear, while dialogue and effects seemed natural and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Commentaries with the writers, directors, actors and others are offered on six of the seven episodes. ""Generation Kill: A Conversation with 1st Recon Marines" is a nearly 25-minute documentary with Evan Wright and members of the marine force that he actually rode along with in Iraq. The conversations are often incredibly insightful and occasionally are very funny, as the group provides a terrific chat about their experiences overseas and their reactions (as well as those of their family and friends) to the series. This is definitely a must-view for fans of the show.
"The Making Of Generation Kill" runs a little over 25 minutes and provides a solid overview of the production, starting with the development of the project and moving forward to intense rehearsals and difficult filming in South Africa. We also learn more about casting, performances, locations, filming issues and more. "Eric Laden's Video Diaries" is a 30-minute piece, as the actor turns the camera on the production, following his experience (as well as that of his fellow cast) as they go through the production. Although these documentaries filmed by actors are usually rough and a bit on the dull side, this is a well-made, interesting piece.
Finally, the set also offers deleted audio of dialogue and exclusive Blu-Ray picture-in-picture features, including an interactive mission map, chain-of-command feature and a (helpful) glossary.
Final Thoughts: Another riveting effort from the creators of "The Wire", "Generation Kill" is a well-acted, powerful adaptation of Wright's book. The Blu-Ray set boasts fantastic audio/video quality and a set of superb extras. Highly recommended.