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'Generation Kill': Confused Yet?

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  July 14, 2008 05:05 AM

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Did you get a chance watch last night's premiere of "Generation Kill" on HBO? If you did, you may feel a little bit hazy about who is who, and what all the terminology means, and where the guys are going and why. Don't worry -- that's the way this miniseries works.

Because it's from the realism-loving creators of "The Wire," the story and its characters aren't spelled out neatly for you, as they are in most TV narratives. You are meant to feel as uncomfortable as, say, a new Marine, or maybe as overwhelmed as the Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright, played by Lee Tergesen. But gradually, you will figure everything out that you need to figure out, and that process of figuring it all out will make the impact of "Generation Kill" more powerful. The miniseries, like "The Wire," asks you not just to watch, but to experience.

There are many strong performers in "Generation Kill," some of whom I singled out in my review of the miniseries. But I didn't have a chance to mention the first actor who leaves an indelible impression -- that would be Neal Jones, who plays Sgt. Maj. John Sixta.

Sixta is the runty, cartoony guy who is obsessed with the Marines' grooming. "Y'all startin' to look like Elvises," he snapped last night, and he will continue to obsess about the way the boys maintain their clothes and hair in the coming weeks. In a lighter war story, Sixta would be comic relief. Here, he's just an irritating guy with a strange fixation actively trying to undermine everyone's morale. By the way, Neal Jones is the same actor who played Peter Reilly, Chief Jerry Reilly's gay son, on "Rescue Me." He was as calm and emotionally anchored on that show as he is untethered on "Generation Kill."

So are you feeling a bit out to see after last night's premiere? Will you watch the second episode?

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25 comments so far...
  1. I watched it and loved it. I am a long-time fan of "The Wire" and I felt that my years of watching that show really made it easier to follow "Generation Kill" from the outset.

    Posted by Liz July 14, 08 08:39 AM
  1. I will watch the entire series. As a Marine the show looks very authentic. I also read the novel and the mini series is a good portayal thus far.

    Posted by UsMarine July 14, 08 06:44 PM
  1. I am a long time Rolling Stone subscriber, and as I watched the opening episode, I kept wondering why the story seemed familiar until I realized it was based on articles that ran in that magazine. I just had a nephew killed in Ramadi in April and had attended Parris Island "family day" a little over a year ago when he graduated. I also recently watched part of Kubrick's 1987 movie Full Metal Jacket.

    The truth is somewhere between the dog and pony show the Marine Corp puts on and Kubrick, and I am going to watch a second show.

    Posted by Steve July 14, 08 07:57 PM
  1. Great show. Very realistic thus far. I will watch every week. I am a retired Marine. Neal Jones character is an eerily accurate depiction of a SgtMaj I once served with.

    Posted by Top V July 14, 08 07:57 PM
  1. A Co. 2/136INF

    Thanks so far...just don't make it liberal.

    You're radio traffic at the end makes me wanna cry.

    Posted by drifter company July 15, 08 03:16 AM
  1. I watched Sunday night & am just about finished with the book. Awesome!!!

    Posted by Gary July 15, 08 07:30 AM
  1. I was hooked on the "wire", no need to worry. Word of mouth will make the audience grow. Great first episode. Just like any mini series or new show. Once you figure out who everyone is, and what their rolls are; the show will be the bomb,(no pun intended). Looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Posted by trippin July 15, 08 08:00 AM
  1. If you like the show, you should read the book "One Bullet Away" by Nathaniel Fick, the real life former Marine captain for whom the show's character is based. It will give you a much better sense for who is who, what the terminology means, and where the guys are going and why.

    Posted by Rob July 15, 08 08:18 AM
  1. I loved the show and will keep watching. The show responds to a real desire of Americans to see what our soldiers, sailors and marines are doing in the war zones. All we ever get on the news is the flaming car bomb.

    Posted by Greg July 15, 08 10:23 AM
  1. We, too, were blown away by the performance of Neal Jones as Sgt Sixta. He continues to show a broad scope of acting abilitles and never fails to entertain whether as a killer or a nice guy... looking forward to the balance of this excellent mini-series

    Posted by Marvin and Nancy July 15, 08 07:59 PM
  1. The book captures the essence of Marines in combat. From the frustration with incompetent leaders as seen through the eyes of the enlisted marine, to the diversity of the marines themselves and how they interact with each other. Gentlemen, let me assure you from experience this is the real deal. The book gave me the goosebumps from the initial contact in Nasiriyah right to the end. I am a former infantry squad leader who served with 2nd Marine Division, in the same places (Qalat Sukhar and Al Hayy etc.) and was about a week behind First Recon Battalion. It was 2/2 Fox Co. who retrieved the body of the Marine (he was a Sgt. and because he was wearing MOPP gear we couldn't find his name) buried in the Ash Shatrah trash dump. We talked briefly to some of the guys from First Recon Battalion, later talking about the sac on these guys, riding around in armorless humvees. At any rate, this is going to be a seriously killer series, I am interested to see how realistic the combat sequences and the sets turn out.
    Semper Fidelis

    Posted by Sergeant Caz July 15, 08 09:25 PM
  1. Correction for your review-

    Godfather is a Lt. Colonel, the battalion commander.

    Posted by Ben July 15, 08 11:54 PM
  1. Just as bad os "Over There". Actually so far I think it's worse becuase my expectations are so high.

    The show lost me in the first five minutes when the hispanic marine took a piss and had a big ole philosophical moment and talked about the "white man". It's just SO cliche. actually all the characters are just a cliche, totally dissapointed.

    Posted by Jack M. July 16, 08 11:59 AM
  1. All the vulgar language and dialog is real but a bit over done. Probobly for the "shock" value to the audience. Keep in mind that most of the Dialog is from the point of view of a junior enlisted. I am a Marine that was there the night we left the LOD in Kuwait. The Invasion scene at the Breach point put chills down my spine. That was exactly and I mean exactly like it was. All of the props and uniforms looked just right. Route Tampa is at the very least a four lane divided highway. The movie showed it as a two lane road. The SgtMaj is way too Cartoonish. I did not like this charater at all.
    Overall good first episode. I'll Tivo all 7.
    Good to go. Out here...

    Posted by Tom July 16, 08 04:50 PM
  1. I read the book about 4 years ago. I was the only reliable/believable information I could find on what the grunts were seeing other than talking to some of my friends and family who were combat support not grunts. It was pretty good except for the guy playing Cpl Person which I had a hard time believing he was a marine lest a recon marine. He seemed too Hollywood and I could have done without the cutesy messed up rendition of "loving you" by Minnie Ripperton. That scene was corny and fuddy duddy as well as hard on the ears. The 1st Sgt reminds me of a staff sgt we called Marine Corp Jones, what a jerk. This is building up to be a great series but need to take out some of the cutesy stuff and maybe it will be as good as Rome. I am looking forward to the rest of the story about the legions ah I mean Marines. Also I think alot of right wing folks wont like reality of what when down in Iraq. Like it says in the book. If this was LA they would be in prison. Also not all Jarheads are right wingnuts as the series show.
    Oo rah Semper Fi

    Posted by Sam S. July 16, 08 07:37 PM
  1. One of my DIs was cartoonish, My OIC was cartoonish yep some people in the suck are silly, with that said the Marines is the best fighting force this country has and even though I don't agree with the right wing crap I am proud to have been in the corps

    Posted by Sam S. July 16, 08 09:35 PM
  1. I thought the first episode was fantastic. I can't wait to watch the rest of the series. This seems like it will easily end up being the definitive portrayal of the Iraq war on screen for the near future, and possibly beyond.

    Posted by Joe July 17, 08 05:09 PM
  1. Saw the 3rd episode tonight....its bs...I smell a liberal somewhere. These guys are goofs, nothing but cartoons and caricatures.

    Posted by Narco July 27, 08 09:52 PM
  1. I appreciate the feedback from Marines --- My wife and I were wondering if this show really depicted how it is over there. Can one of you Marines help us out with what the acronyms stand for?

    Posted by Brian July 31, 08 08:40 AM
  1. I have been watching the show with my hubby and based on my son-in-law and son who were there off and on for 4 years it appears to be as factual as possible. You cannot expect actors to be as true to life as our people who experience it first hand. I resent all of the comments about liberals. My views may seem liberal to some but my child's blood is as red and flows when injured, as any so called conservative out there. At least my boys stepped up to the plate for their country.

    Posted by Pat August 3, 08 09:02 PM
  1. I would really like it if somebody would make available a printout of the military abbreviations being used in Generation Kill. It would make the show a lot easier to understand and easier to follow. I looked some of the abbreviations up in an internet search and some of the abbreviations being used in this show had slightly different meanings in an older dictionary. If any one knows of a current list of military slang(being used the HBO production) it would be a big plus for the show.

    Posted by wayne searcy August 10, 08 11:17 PM
  1. Great book. HBO's miniseries lives up to the book. First and foremost I know each and everyone of these characters exist throughout the Corps from Six years in the big green suck. As one former first lady described the Marines she visted: "The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!" Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1945

    Posted by MET August 12, 08 05:34 PM
  1. Well...I read the seem spretty much in line with it. And I server 10 years in the military. The banter among the enlisted guys sure feels real, The troops perform their mission no matter how screwed up the command structure is. And in the military, you can get some real clowns running things from time to time. The troops are the best!

    Posted by Mike Coats August 19, 08 01:23 PM
  1. as a european and simple civilian I was wondering, do people like John Sixta exist in real life in the marine corps? I find it really hard to believe, but if so, I'm not surprised with people like that in the chain of command, a lot of things in this world get pretty f'd up sometimes. Anyway, I might be a greenpea hippy euro fag, but respect to all yall americans doing all the dirty work and all relatives who have to deal with their loved ones serving abroad.
    Love the series though!

    Posted by Pete Lyon August 21, 08 06:39 PM
  1. I am hooked on the series. it's a masterpiece. the radio chatter at the end is hypnotic. it's fucking brilliant.
    Haris, Malaysia.

    Posted by Haris Hussain June 15, 09 04:30 AM

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