Thursday April 29, 2010
What's Good in “The Pacific”
I‘ve been watching “The Pacific” without being a fan of “The Pacific.” We don’t know these guys well enough, and they don't know each other well enough. In “Band of Brothers,” to which “The Pacific” will forever be compared and found wanting, the characters had gotten past the get-to-know-you stage and engaged on a deeper level. Here, they‘re always introducing themselves. Guys come, guys go. We watch guys cry for guys we don’t know, so we don't know why they‘re crying. We’re not always following the same platoon, either, so cohesion is an issue. The stories are as spread out as the Pacific islands they‘re invading.
Worse, the series feels slightly off, slightly false. In the midst of unspeakable horrors—which the series handles well—we get a speech that feels like a speech; like it was drafted by Henry Luce.
The one bright spot for me is a dark spot: Rami Malek as Merriell Shelton. When we first see him, part of the same platooon as Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge, our innocent Southern boy, he’s an annoyance. He's got a faraway look and a sing-songy voice that implies the world isn't as neat as Eugene thinks. One gets the feeling the war didn't do this to him, either; he showed up this way. But the war ain't helping.
With every episode he's grown on me. He's the one guy who feels real. Last Sunday we watched him toss pebbles into the open skulls of half-decapitated Japanse soldiers. At one point our boys ran into a non-combat soldier who asked them, these exhausted Marines, if anyone had a souvenir, a Jap sword or flag, he could bring home with him; and while the others were silent or combative, Shelton was matter of fact. “Nobody's going home” he said, almost joyfully.
I doubt it's a star-making turn but I hope it's a character-actor-making turn. “The Pacific” is slightly off, but Malik's Shelton is gloriously off.