I finally watched Damian Lewis in Band of Brothers

This show is not for me.

I’ve always known this, that’s why I have never watched it. I’d start thinking about the subject matter, remember photo stills of the scenes I’ve glimpsed over the years, and just KNEW it would be nightmare city for me.  You can call me delicate, call me a wuss, I don’t really care. This show? This show is not for me.

source: galleryhip.com

But I need to be clear: I do not want, for one moment, for my thoughts on war or my inability to sit through a show this intense, to be mistaken for criticism or ingratitude for the sacrifices made by so many. I am a descendant of men and women who served, and I benefit every day of my life because of those who went before me. I would never disparage their time spent defending our country, and their great sacrifices in doing so.

I will never make it to this episode. Guaranteed.

I also do not want to seem critical of the show for its very subject. While a lot of media will glorify war, Band of Brothers certainly does not. It explores war in all its ugliness, all of its pointless waste and death. It illustrates the sacrifice and the cost so very clearly, and without judgement. War brings out the very best and the very worse in all of humanity, and this show did not pull any punches in depicting that.

I ONLY KNOW FOR SURE THAT ONE OF THESE DUDES LIVES UNTIL THE END OF THE SHOW I CANT HANDLE THIS

Aside from the grit and the gore, the strongest element of Band of Brothers is the humanity it brings to these people, to those who are caught up in it, to those brave enough to face an inevitable darkness and fight to see the light on the other side. That humanity is present in the very title, is the very core of the entire story, and it is what makes this show great, for those who can handle the subject matter. The writing is so interesting and compelling, it can easy to forget how this was all based on the real life and times of a real group of people. It just seems so fantastical, so theatrical, so much larger than life! If it wasn’t so terrifying to imagine, it might be considered thrilling. The fact that it did actually happen was part of the distress, for me, in watching it. It’s easy to detach from the science fiction hero being shot by the space laser. It’s a lot harder to detach from something that actually happened. Even though what was on my screen was not real, my mind could not escape that these people were re-enacting actual events. My empathy was in overdrive!

Caption: Damian Lewis standing where Dick Winters had once stood.

The entire cast “brings it” in such a major way. They all seem to carry the weight and the realism of actually depicting real people who walked the Earth during World War 2. This reality made it a painful, immersive watch. I really begin to wonder how any of these people came back with any shred of sanity. It’s a point made even sadder when you consider that those who made it home, did so at a time when their PTSD wasn’t even formally recognized or treated. The show doesn’t pull back from any of that trauma, as men fire off rounds through tears, and hold their fallen brothers as they die.

One of many moments that almost made me stop watching

I have not forgotten, dear reader, that this is a blog about Damian Lewis! I guess should say a few nice words about our favorite fella.

No but like seriously he is a BABY here.

To us, his most devoted fans, it is no surprise to find that Damian’s portrayal of Dick Winters is absolutely stunning. Seeing him so young is striking, right off the bat! Barely a man, himself, with a smooth complexion, absent of his well-earned smile lines, in Band of Brothers, Damian portrays a stoic soldier, a man of great conviction and discipline. It’s incredible in so many ways. It’s so different from who he is, and such a departure from the many dynamic characters we have seen him take on since. So quiet, so dialed down, so serious.

It struck me in a very personal way. There was something about the way he carried himself, the tempered way he spoke, that was oddly familiar. It was as though I had met this man, before. Then it dawned on m: I realized that he reminded me of my Grandfather, John, who has also fought in WW2. Damian managed to nail something so essential about the posture, the body language, just the very essence of the men of that generation. I am not sure how he managed to do it, but he really did. It was absolutely eerie, feeling as though I was watching someone I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing since his passing in 2003, and one I had never known at that particular age. What a gift Damian can give, in such a role. I wonder how many people had that moment, as well.

My actual grandparents. I can’t even stand how cute they are.

It is rather stunning that, even as such a young man, that he was able to pull that off. It’s obviously all the more evidence of Damian’s talents and abilities, which he seems to have been born with. That’s not to say that he doesn’t expend any effort, or that he didn’t need study, direction, and education to hone his craft. But it does seem that this ability to “be the part” is something he’s always had. His range is really incredible, to even believe that this is the same man who swaggers down the hallways of Axe Capital these days. How can he be both? How can he play such opposite ends of the spectrum?

From the moment the first episode started, and the faces of the real men behind this story began flashing across the face, sharing their accounts, I knew I was in over my head. I made it 3 episodes in before turning it off. At the top of each episode, the real-life men, teary-eyed at times, share incredibly personal insight into these stories, of what it was like to have this not just as story, but as memory. Again, it’s the humanity that makes this show extraordinary and special. It’s the fact that it DID happen. We could talk all day about the production value of this show, the efforts that must have went into it. The costuming, the writing, the research, the talent on all sides. It’s a tremendous undertaking to bring such a period piece to life, and to do so correctly, authentically, respectfully and truthfully. I can see why this show is beloved by so many, my darling husband being one of them. His box set of the show gets a re-watch at least twice a year.

But it’s still not for me.

3 thoughts on “I finally watched Damian Lewis in Band of Brothers”

  1. This is a lovely post, thank you for sharing our feelings with us, Holliedazzle! I completely understand you. My husband and I have just finished watching Band of Brothers one more time, and I admit there were moments where I wanted to turn it off, too. No wonder these men, including your grandfather, are called the greatest generation, the sacrifice they made for us all is incredible. And Band of Brothers is doing such a wonderful job in portraying them as humans, not super humans, and some of them as kids, because they were kids! Some of them were not even twenty. Some of them were scared. The scene where everyone is on his own just before they jump out of the plane is so powerful, you wonder what each and every man is thinking, and the real Dick Winters saying everyone has his own way dealing with fear is the truth.

    I smiled when I looked at the picture with your note below it saying you only know Damian’s character will be back and you wonder if any of the others will make it… In fact, all guys in that picture survive the war (sorry for the spoiler!) but you also see a lot of young people losing arms and legs, and they are the lucky ones! This is what war is. I completely understand why you stopped watching after Carentan. It is a very hard-to-watch episode but Episode 6 Bastogne and Episode 7 The Breaking Point are even harder watches. And, of course, you cannot d do anything but cry when Easy Company finds the concentration camp without knowing what it is in Episode 9 Why We Fight.

    Damian’s performance is mesmerizing in Band of Brothers. Incredibly nuanced performance, his stillness is everything.

    1. This is brilliantly written and captures much of what I felt about Band of Brothers. It still amazes me that I did watch it. Every frame. Like you I share a horror not just of the war but of the idea it might be glorified or sanitised for our entertainment. But in Band of Brothers it did neither. The focus was on the characters far more than the war itself so we never lost sight of their story. And the terrible Bastiogne episodes, where I nearly gave up, were still compelling enough to carry me on. And at one point Winters learns that one of his men has never shot anyone in the whole war – a strange trueism that is rarely said. Many WW2 soldiers never shot anyone. But I digress. The concentration camp scene was an absolute horror as you would expect. But again it was sensitively done and they were rescuing the inmates so that made it bearable. And the way they got the villagers to clean up and and arrange burial gave a feeling of … ‘correctness’ to the horror they saw. Few war films have covered liberation in this way so it somehow felt Ok, to watch. And of course the final episode was all about liberation and repatriation. Winter even volunteering to go overseas to help with the war in the East. (Refused ‘you’ve done enough, son). So it’s actually ok to watch even though it’s thought provoking and at times grim. But it’s the war being ended. Easy Company joined the war as it was coming to an end – at D Day. So, I could watch it. I was able to fully immerse myself in the lives of these young men who start the war as lively teenagers playing pranks and end it as serious grown ups. It’s their story. It’s not the war itself, it’s them. It’s powerful and moving and denying yourself watching it is, in my mind, a false sacrifice. Their story is crying out to be told and told it is. Beautifully.

  2. Thank you to everyone who has left me so many wonderful comments on all the social media platforms, as well as here.

    This was a really hard post to write. It went through so many revisions, and proofs, before I was brave enough to publish it. I didn’t want to appear critical, or even overly political, but I couldn’t lie and say that I could watch this. It did, indeed, give me nightmares. War is one of those things that is a worst case scenario for me. I can’t imagine being faced with it. I cannot imagine that I’d be able to find the strength and courage that so many men and women find every day and CHOOSE to do it.

    I am so glad that my true intentions were apparent, in this post, and that no one took it as bashing or critical. I’d always encourage anyone to watch the show, even though I couldn’t. These stories deserve to be told, and remembered.

Join the conversation!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.