This one snuck up on me. The Liberator on Netflix. It's a four-part drama following a US infantry unit through 500 days of campaigning in the Second World War. The twist is the unit came out of the American south-west so it was full of Native Americans, Mexican-Americans and cowboys. A helluva mix.
It instantly appealed to me because I ‘m deep into the writing of the next Axis of Time title and the subtext of the series echoes some of the themes I wanted to draw out in Weapons of Choice. Based on a book by historian Alex Kershaw, The Liberator follows some familiar paths, exploring why men would fight for a country that wouldn't extend them the basic courtesies, let alone the same legal rights as their white officers and squad mates.
I’m kind of curious to read the book now because the series mostly puts it down to the decency of one officer, Felix Sparks, who led a platoon, then a company and finally the 157th Infantry Battalion as a whole through a year and a half of ground combat. The 157 came ashore at Anzio and fought up through southern Europe before breaching the walls of Dachau in the last days of the war.
A couple of reviews complained that the four episodes are closer to a biopic of Sparks than a dramatised unit history of the 157th and it's a reasonable enough point, except that The Liberator is a pretty great biopic of a fascinating, talented and unusually humane military leader. I think it's a fair enough criticism that we don't really go deep enough into the characters of the men around Sparks, but I suspect that production constraints go a long way towards explaining that.
The Liberator started out as an eight part, live action series on the History Channel, before budget problems saw it fold back to a four-parter on Netflix. The most interesting thing about that, however, isn't the limits it put on the screenwriters and production team, it's the way they addressed them. The Liberator is a weird blend of live action and animation. It reminds me of an old Keanu Reeves film based on a Philip K Dick novel. I'll be damned if I can remember the name of it right now, and I'm about to head out the door to jujitsu so I don't want to go down the rabbit hole with Google to find out.
But some of you will remember.
I was so fascinated by the technical details of how they made this series that I started searching up reviews after the first episode. And then I stopped, of course, because spoilers. What is it about modern reviewers that they can't write worth a damn without giving away the story?
Anyway, I'm not about to start dropping plot points all over this. It's enough to say that I really enjoyed the series. I found the final episode really affecting, and I'd be happy to recommend it to anybody with an interest in this sort of thing.
The animation is distracting for the first 10 or 15 minutes, but eventually it becomes compelling in its own way.
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