“Band Of Brothers” remains one of the most influential TV series of all time, if only because it helped bring about the so-called golden age of prestige TV we currently find ourselves in. Coming from creators and executive producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg — who will soon be bringing their follow-up “Masters Of The Air” to Apple TV+ — the show brought movie-level production values to the small screen, resulting in a vividly rendered version of World War II that still stands as one of the most affecting on-screen depictions of war.
Based on Stephen Ambrose’s non-fiction book of the same name, “Band Of Brothers” begins by focusing on E, otherwise known as “Easy”, Company of the 101st Airborne Division as they train for World War II. Across 10 episodes, the group, one of the first paratrooper teams used by the US in war, makes their way through Normandy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and eventually to Austria at the war’s end. But before these battles across Europe’s fields, towns, woodland, and marshes play out, we see how Easy Company is thrown right into the thick of battle on D-Day, as they attempt to parachute into Normandy amid a sky filled with utter chaos. And much like the rest of the show’s depictions of battle, this harrowing introduction to the realities of World War II is one of the best, most intense moments in “Band Of Brothers.”
June 6, 1944 saw the Allied forces launch their assault on Nazi-occupied France via land, sea, and in the case of Easy Company, air. Just three years prior to “Band Of Brothers,” Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg crafted a harrowing reconstruction of that infamous June day in a brutal moment from “Saving Private Ryan,” wherein Hanks’ Captain John Miller lands at Omaha beach. With their HBO show, the D-Day operation is shown from the paratroopers’ perspective in a similarly striking sequence that builds towards the soldiers’ initial jump into Normandy.
The scenes are part of episode 2, “Day of Days,” which was directed by British filmmaker Richard Loncraine. Easy Company is shown in their C-47 plane, flying into a barrage of shells and explosions when their own aircraft comes under fire. With several of their comrades’ planes being downed around them and their co-pilot dying from a headshot en route, Easy Company is finally given the green light to jump. The camera then follows Damian Lewis’ Major Richard Winters as he descends through the chaos to make a safe landing.
It’s all crafted with the same unflinching sensibility used throughout the series, depicting how the horrors of war begin before Easy Company even set their paratrooper boots on land. And in a making-of-featurette, it shows how parts of the sequence were constructed using some improvised tech built specifically for the scenes in the airplane interior. The “Band Of Brothers” effects department constructed a special hydraulic-driven gimbal that sat below a plane fuselage housed on a soundstage. As Phil Alden Robinson, director of episode 1, explained, “They can control every possible axis of movement in varying degrees of intensity and that thing is really rocking and rolling as if you were in a real plane bouncing about.”
Capturing The Intensity Of The Moment
With the plane interior scenes taken care of, that just left Major Winters’ one-take parachute jump to shoot. For this, the crew used a good old blue screen and crane-mounted camera. Damian Lewis was suspended from the ceiling in a hip rig, allowing the crew to swivel and pivot the actor as if he were falling from the plane. As director Richard Loncraine explained, “he’s not falling at all, the aircraft is moving away so it looks like he’s falling but that’s put on in an optical process afterwards.” Once the post-production team added the background, the sequence was complete, and is actually quite convincing considering this whole thing was made more than 20 years ago.
The whole sequence isn’t the most brutal “Band Of Brothers” scene but it is one of the most intense, and perfectly sets the tone of the following episodes. As the specially-built hydraulic gimbal shudders away, the jolts to the airplane help to intensify the abject dread being felt by the soldiers as they prepare to jump into the hellscape below.
At the time, paratroopers were relatively new, especially for the US Army, who had only conducted the first paratrooper jump four years prior to D-Day, when 48 Soldiers formed the army’s first parachute test platoon. As such, the Allied soldiers weren’t necessarily prepared for their brutal assault on Normandy. As “Band Of Brothers” actor Ron Livingston says in the making-of featurette, “They flew pretty much into mayhem. They lost at least a thousand paratroopers before they hit the ground. Planes [were being] shot down or [they were] being shot just in their parachutes […] the pilots didn’t really know what to expect.” All of which is captured in unsettling detail in episode 2 of the series.
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The post Some Impressive Tech Went Into Pulling Off Band Of Brothers’ Parachute Jumps appeared first on /Film.
/Film – Some Impressive Tech Went Into Pulling Off Band Of Brothers’ Parachute Jumps
Author: Joe Roberts
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March 11, 2023