Produced by the same team that brought you Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, The Pacific should outdo them both in showing the horrors of the second world war
Last month saw HBO release the first official teaser trailer for their $200m (£120m) second world war series The Pacific, which airs on Sky Movies next Spring. It's an epic co-produced by Tom Hanks and directed by Steven Spielberg, who collaborated on 1998's Saving Private Ryan and the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers.
The trailer gives the impression that the scale of this show dwarfs those earlier projects. The Pacific will follow the intertwined exploits of three US Marines – Robert Leckie, Eugene Sledge and John Basilone – as they plunge into combat against the Japanese in the Pacific theatre of the second world war. It will also, unlike the other two projects, spend time on the home front after VJ day in August 1945. As in Band of Brothers, viewers will be faced with an ensemble cast of largely unfamiliar faces, including Joseph Mazzello (as US Marine Eugene B Sledge), who played the frequently endangered young lad Tim in Spielberg's Jurassic Park.
It was during the making of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers that Spielberg's production template for shooting war was refined and which, judging from the trailer, has been followed in The Pacific. To get that effect, you have to be prepared to build lavishly big. By the time the third episode of Band of Brothers was in the can, more pyrotechnics equipment had been used than in the whole of Saving Private Ryan. Authenticity is also key; The Pacific will draw on memoirs and interviews with veterans including Sledge's With the Old Breed. and Robert Leckie's Helmet for My Pillow.
The Pacific also looks as though it will follow the same visual style of its predecessors – harsh, drained colour palette and shaky camerawork, and will screen in high definition too. Special camera lenses were used on Saving Private Ryan which had the protective coating extracted from the inside, producing images slightly more defused and prone to flares, and making the sky look burned out. The production team also used a different shadow degree to achieve a certain staccato effect in the actor's movements. This style was followed through in Band of Brothers' post-production, and can be seen in this intense battle clip from episode two (which also highlights the other essential ingredient – the stunning, overwhelming audio mix).
Watching The Pacific is likely to be a violent and unsettling experience. But, as Captain Dale Dye (Vietnam vet and military advisor on a host of war films including Platoon) put it in an interview with the BBC: "That's the real deal. I've been there, where the gore is slathered on whether you like it or not. If that's the way it was, good, that's the way we'll show it. If it wasn't we will not show it that way."