The Pacific' review: Brilliant, brutal, and, yes, very enjoyable

I feel as though too many reviews and too many viewers are approaching HBO's The Pacific as though it's a chore. It's not: If you watched the first episode this week, chances are, you're in for next week, too, because it has tremendous narrative drive. While rightly noting that this 10-part series never shies away from the brutality of the World War II battles against Japan, the vividness of the carnage is neither excessively off-putting nor action-movie celebrated.

No, what came across in this week's premiere and continues on through each succeeding episode is the tremendous psychological, as well as physical, strain that the war in the Pacific theater imposed upon everyone from the most low-ranking soldier to its higher-ranking strategists. Unlike Band of Brothers, made by many of the same people and led by producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, The Pacific doesn't often offer the comfort of triumphant surges and comradeship under fire. It does something much trickier to pull off: It creates marvelous drama from a highly chaotic, confusing series of battlefields, and follows men who aren't best buddies, but who are complex combinations of heroes, innocents, cynics, and damaged goods.

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