Any post-9/11 Marine could easily sit down and binge through all seven episodes of the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill. In fact, if you've sat in your squad bay at Camp Wilson while there for a training exercise, you've probably already watched it a few times. Why is it so popular with the Devil Dogs? Simple: it feels pinpoint accurate.
There aren't a whole lot of accurate depictions of Marines out there. At least, not many that really, 100% capture the true nature and mannerisms of Marines — the Infantry-type especially. That's what sets Generation Kill apart from the rest. Based on the novel written by Evan Wright, a reporter for Rolling Stone, who was embedded with the 1st Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Wright set out with the goal of showing Marines as they were, unfiltered.
And that he did — but the miniseries adaptation took it a few steps further. There were aspects in production that not only honored Mr. Wright's material, but Marine culture as well:
1. Military advisers
A lot of people give Hollywood sh*t when incorrectly depict aspects of military life — likely due to the lack of someone on set who knows (from experience) what they're talking about. In this case, they had two guys on the job — Rudy Reyes, who plays himself in the series, and Eric Kocher, both Recon Marines. They went as far as having the actors go through a six-day mini-boot camp to learn all of the basics.
If he's portraying himself, is this still considered his costume?
And the actors took it seriously. They dedicated themselves to honoring the memory and the experiences of the real-life Marines they portray in the series. Rudy Reyes himself said,
"... These guys have shown incredible discipline and attention to detail as well as commitment and camaraderie."
Which goes to show that they picked the right actors for the job. But, in many cases, an actor can only be as convincing as the material they're given.
A side-by-side comparison of the real-life Brad Colbert with Alexander Skarsgard, who played Colbert in the series.
2. Source material
As previously stated, Evan Wright set out to portray the Marines as they were. He's gone on record as saying he didn't aim to depict them as heroes or villains — but just as they were. If you were to go to Rolling Stone to read through his original series of articles, you'll notice that they, too, are extremely accurate.
From reading his writing, you get a sense that he wanted to show the world that Marines are people, just like anyone else. Such authentic source material meant that the production team had some big shoes to fill — they needed performances that felt real. Really real.
Lee Tergesen as Evan Wright.
Thankfully, HBO at this point had already done Band of Brothers, which was another accurate depiction of troops in war. For Evan Wright, that kind of pedigree was comforting; he know that HBO would do their best to faithfully adapt his work.
3. Cast and crew
And, of course, Generation Kill has a great cast of actors. As mentioned before, they were extremely dedicated to their roles and understood what it was that they were doing. Of course, that's partially credited to the Reyes and Kocher, but the actors themselves played their roles brilliantly.
Beyond that, every department understood what they were making and made sure to get a lot of the details correct, including costumes.
Also, notice how the actors have learned to keep their booger hooks off the bang switch.
When it comes to getting things accurate, Generation Kill does an outstanding job. It would be great to sit here and write all of the amazing things the actors and crew had to say about it, but to hear them say it is even better:
- After Iraq, the Marines of 'Generation Kill' Regret Nothing | Military.com ›
- Writing the Iraq War: The Notes, Photos, and Audio for 'Generation Kill' ›
- The Killer Elite – Rolling Stone ›
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- This is the true origin of the Marine Recon paddle - Americas Military Entertainment Brand ›