As a general rule, if I liked a book and it is later turned into a movie, I don’t watch the movie. Because, chances are, the movie isn’t going to be nearly as good as the book. Not so with Generation Kill, a book that was later turned into a miniseries.
Published in 2004, Generation Kill is the story of the Marine First Recon’s push to Baghdad at the start of the Iraq war. Written by reporter Evan Wright, the book grew out of a series of stories titled “The Killer Elite” which he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine while embedded with the unit. It is a gritty tale that holds nothing back, revealing the good, the bad, and the ugly of the war and the men we sent to fight it.
The book follows good leaders, like Lt Nathaniel Fick, author of his own book One Bullet Away (one I have also read and recommend) and now CEO of Endgame, Inc, a security intelligence software company, and Sgt Brad Colbert aka “Iceman,” who as of 2012 is a Master Sergeant in the Marines stationed at the Army’s Airborne School in Ft Benning, GA, and their battle to execute their mission despite poor equipment, logic-defying orders, exhaustion, and enemy fire. It also tells the story of poor leaders, men given nicknames like “Encino Man” and “Captain America,” who will make you cringe and shake your head. It takes you deep inside the battle from the Kuwait-Iraq border to the streets of Baghdad and the reality of what it means to fight for your life.
In 2008, HBO turned the book into a mini-series. Wright wrote the screenplay, flawlessly recreating the men in the book into characters on the screen (including “Fruity Rudy,” Sergeant Rodolfo “Rudy” Reyes, a more-than-a-little vain Marine played by himself). The series, where several of the real Marines served as military advisors, stays true to the nature of the book, dragging you into the chaos and the sleep-deprived, combat-stressed, sick-humored lives of Marines out to “get some” at the pointy end of the spear. It’ll have you laughing, pumping your fists, and comparing the characters to people you knew when you served. But, as with everything else, it’s a little Hollywood in that everything is extreme and, as the men who are portrayed in it caution in an interview, a little heavy on the “officer-bashing.”
I enjoyed both the book and the miniseries, own both, and intend to read and watch them again multiple times (something I rarely do with either book or film). My only warning is regarding the language, which author Evan Wright admits he used with the intent to make the audience uncomfortable. Military members are known for having foul mouths, I was no exception, but the vulgarity of the language at times boggles the mind and, in the case of the word “retard,” which I absolutely detest, is overused.
You can find out more about the series, watch interviews with the Marines of First Recon, and purchase the book here.
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