Premiering last Sunday and running through Aug. 24, Generation Kill also gets the not-so-sugary things right. The program’s obsession with the hyper-real extends to the pitch-perfect sound of a Humvee idling and the baggy cut of the Marines’ chemical-warfare suits, which made these 21st-century warriors seem to be wearing hand-me-down uniforms. The dialogue is un-Hollywoodized, tooâ€”the unfiltered use of foul language and military acronyms made me think I was listening to a replay of what I heard five years ago.
Yet the highest achievement of the miniseries is the way it unveils the disordered workings of the American military and the inevitable destruction of all objects in its path, including civilians whose only offense is to tend their sheep or drive down a road. With its $550 billion budget and 1.5 million troops, the military might seem a mechanized colossus of precision-guided violence, give or take a few bad apples and errant artillery shells. But if you have served in the military or written about it from the inside, you know that on the unit level it is filled with men and women of vastly different motivations and skills. The Marines in Generation Kill are intelligent and dimwitted, panicked, sensitive, racist, comic, homicidal, brave. It is a wonder when things go according to plan. “You know what happens when you get out of the Marine Corps?” says one of the characters. “You get your brains back.”