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Ghost Canyon

'The Pacific (HBO Miniseries)'
(Isabel Lucas, William Sadler, Joseph Mazzello, James Badge Dale, Jon Seda, et al / 6-Disc DVD / NR / 2010 / HBO)

Overview: The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that delivers a realistic portrait of WWII's Pacific Theatre as seen through the intertwined odysseys of three U.S. Marines - Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain firests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day.

DVD Verdict: A war movie stands or falls on it ability to portray the thousand-yard stare. It's that look that a soldier will have after only a couple of days of continuous combat, that shellshocked gaze that stares into an infinity beyond the horrific reality that they have endured and must endure again, and again.

The young Marines that are sent Guadalcanal, many on their first combat mission, are pumped up for action, giddy with the fantasy of the battle to come and with that peculiar sprit de corps that only the American Marine can conjure. As the reality of battle settles in, their faces reflect some nameless contradiction.

Disturbing beyond measure is not only the sudden, irrational death of their comrades, but the fanatical pursuit of death by their enemy. It strikes the Marine as appallingly unnatural that Japanese soldiers would fling themselves into the face of relentless machine gun defenses whose end can only be certain death.

The camera fixes on the faces of the battle weary Marine as he contemplates such otherworldly moments that seem to last forever, then on a sea of corpses that was the night's work. The faces look familiar, not because we recognize the actors (in many cases, we aren't likely to) but because we know them from photographs of war correspondents. Yes, I would say that HBO nails the thousand-yard stare down pretty well.

'The Pacific' is an ideal series for home theatre viewing. With front projection or sizeable flat screens and a serious high-definition surround sound system we are transported, safely, into a world that few of us now living ever knew, even if our fathers did. There is much to learn - in many instances, to learn all over again. There is comment in the Extra Features that - rather unwittingly, I should think - warns against the tyranny of a colonial power whose manifesto is the domination of lesser peoples.

Taken at face value, the drama that is the lives of Bob Leckie, John Basilone and Gene Sledge as they played their part in that great war is powerful stuff. As with Band of Brothers, cliche is rare (after all, war is a cliche of sorts, is it not), sentimentality is left at the door altogether. Bombs really do burst in the air and we are their victims as are they.

As for the high definition part of the package: The Pacific looks great and will likely become a benchmark for sound reproduction. [LN] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.76:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Profiles of The Pacific: Delve into the lives of the real Marines featured in The Pacific
Making The Pacific: Go behind the scenes and take an inside look at the making of the miniseries
Anatomy of the Pacific War: Explore the historical influences and cultural perceptions that led to the merciless brutality in the Pacific theater of World War II