View Full Version : Reviews DVD Video Reviews The Marines

05-13-07, 05:53 PM
Reviews DVD Video Reviews The Marines

The Marines
Paramount // Unrated // $19.99 // May 22, 2007
Review by Paul Mavis | posted May 13, 2007

Told with simplicity and deeply held respect for its subject, PBS's The Marines is a gripping look at the "Warrior Ethos" of the U.S. Armed Services' toughest fighters. Focusing not only on the rigorous, physically and emotionally exhaustive training that's required to become a Marine, The Marines also presents a much-needed appreciation for the incredible optimism and courage - as well as intelligence - of our most celebrated warriors. It's a remarkably compassionate, layered and resolutely unapologetic look at a service that unfortunately has been unjustly denigrated and misunderstood, particularly during these past few decades.

Starting at the beginning, with those first few terrifying moments where new recruits hit the deck at Parris Island Recruit Depot in South Carolina, and going right through to the insanely difficult Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, The Marines turns an unblinking eye at the rigors involved with making it as a Marine. Calmly narrating what the recruits are experiencing, The Marines provides a remarkable counterpoint to the obvious confusion and fear these civilians are feeling in their first few hours and days as a potential Marine. Seen strictly from a standpoint of the physical and mental challenges that the recruits are expected to master, The Marines is a mesmerizing look at certainly one of the most demanding endurance feats anyone could attempt. Particularly harrowing is a sequence on The Quigley, a dreaded obstacle course featured at OCS that teaches fear-management and leadership skills, as well as nearly breaking the candidates physically. It's an amazing sequence made more incredible when you realize each and every one of these men and women are there because they want to be. There are no second chances for officer candidates in the Marine Corps. If you DOR (drop on request) from OCS, you're finished as a potential officer. Watching these physically tough, mentally razor-sharp candidates voluntarily going through paramount emotional and physical stress, all to become a Marine officer and serve their country, is a real eye-opener for those who mistakenly think the armed services are only for dolts and deadbeats.

If The Marines only focused on this aspect of the Marines - the physical challenges involved in basic training - it would have sufficed as a respectable, but not terribly original documentary. However, The Marines goes further, and attempts to illustrate and understand the driving force behind the aura that is the Marines, the "warrior ethos" that makes Marines, quite simply, different from all other members of the United States Armed Services. Featuring interviews with Marines such as Brigadier General Richard Tryon, the Commanding General of Parris Island Recruit Depot, Lieutenant General Ron Christmas, the President of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Major Rick Spooner, author of The Spirit of Semper Fidelis, Captain Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away, Staff Sergeant Craig Finger, Colonel Joseph Alexander, military historian, Senior Drill Instructor, Sergeant Sebastiano Siino, Senior Drill Instructor, General Michael Hagee, Commandant, as well as commentators such as Thomas Ricks, author of Making the Corps, Robert Kaplan, from The Atlantic Monthly, and Hunter Armstrong, hoplologist, The Marines makes a point of not shying away from the basic tenant that Marines are the necessary "go to" forces for American foreign policy. They're the soldiers that get there first, draw fire, shape the battlefield, and most importantly, engage and kill the enemy.

The documentary is very clear on this frequently misunderstood aspect of the Marines, this "warrior ethos" that trains for killing. As one commentator rightly states, this willingness to kill the enemy make some Americans very uncomfortable, but after watching The Marines, it's clear that Marines, above all other soldiers (by virtue of the fact that they're often the first to die in combat), hate war (as if that really needs stating). The Marines goes to great lengths to show the Marines' character-building exercises that teach Marines that it's just as important to know right from wrong, as it is to learn how to kill efficiently. It's a delicate balancing act that the Marines have been struggling with for decades now, after training methods were changed in the mid-1970s after a scandal broke about so-called abusive training methods during boot camp. How does the Marine Corps, a service that needs to train killers as America's blunt instruments in times of crisis, keep those highly trained, dedicated soldiers on an even moral keel? It's a compelling debate (one exemplified by the oft-stated description of Marines: your best friend or your worst enemy), and The Marines does a good job of illustrating the difficulties in obtaining such a fine balance in purpose.

As well, The Marines does a fine job of illustrating the self-contained culture that gets passed down from Marine generation to Marine generation. Through a speedy look at the history of the Corps, from its inception by the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775, to current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Marines delineates the symbols and traditions of the Corps that indoctrinate an incoming individual into an elite member of an on-going culture, a culture over two hundred years old that celebrates the lives and sacrifices of every member that went before, and which succeeds in producing new Marines with the exact same devotion to honor, courage and commitment.

More importantly, The Marines shows just how deeply dedicated the patriotic young men and women are who join up for the Corps. Showing up as a lie the beliefs some people in the media and in the political arena have that young people only join the service today because they're either too dumb or too poor to get ahead in civilian life, The Marines forcefully shows just how intelligent, motivated, and most surprisingly (at least for some in the media), how patriotic these American warriors are in their devotion to America as an ideal, and the Corps. It's a most poignant moment in The Marines when a senior drill instructor, who previously had been shown as a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails hard-ass, momentarily chokes up when he speaks about the sacrifice and service these Marines willingly give to their country, and often without thanks in the public arena. It's seeing this commitment to their country in The Marines, this willingness to lay down their lives in a volunteer military force, that ultimately makes The Marines such a powerful, emotional viewing experience.

The DVD:

The Video: The Hi-Def, enhanced for 16x9 1.78:1 widescreen image for The Marines is crystal clear, with no compression or transfer issues. Colors are bold and vivid, and of course, there's no grain or artifacting.

The Audio: The English 2.0 stereo is loud and clear, with every grunt and groan easily picked up. Oorah!

The Extras: There's a marvelous twenty-seven minute featurette, The National Museum of the Marine Corps that gives the viewer an intimate tour of the awe-inspiring interactive museum.

Final Thoughts: Unapologetic in its delineation of the Marine Corps' basic function -- to put the first boots on the ground in any American combat situation, and to engage and kill the enemy -- The Marines does much more than just look at the physical hardships that Marine candidates go through before graduating to the Corps. Written, produced and directed by John Grant, The Marines looks respectfully at the "warrior ethos" that has sustained the Corps for over two hundred years, a culture of warfare, a culture of being the very best of the best, that creates a warrior distinctly different from our other armed forces personnel. A military service that is largely misunderstood by many people, The Marines gives a necessary broader view of these intelligent, fierce fighters, and illustrates the idealism and patriotism that motivates the vast majority of its members. I highly recommend the PBS documentary, The Marines.

---Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, and the author of The Espionage Filmography

05-13-07, 06:23 PM
Fontman Note: DVD not scheduled for release until May 22nd.

Can be preordered at the below URL:



05-13-07, 07:38 PM
i caught this show when it originally aired, i thought it was very good, actually i was surprised by it's accuracy and that it did not seem to have a political agenda for or against the corps. i will probally order this on dvd.

Semper Fi.

05-13-07, 11:11 PM
Thank you Fontman for posting the info on the DVD!!

Original airing of the show was great!!! I know a couple of Marine Dads with sons currently active that also thought the show was great. Definitely a DVD to own.

Eric Hood
05-16-07, 03:46 PM
I got this and watched it four times. It is excellent.
Semper Fi,

05-19-13, 08:19 PM
Good DVD. This was filmed while I was a recruit in Alpha company plt 1032. Our Senior Drill Instructor was Sgt Siino. Pretty cool to look back and see a lot of the guys i am still in touch with today as recruits in the video. I make a few quick screen shots but nothing worth noting! Overall very good DVD would like to own a copy, but for now when I want to watch it, I can find it on Youtube.

Thanks for the post!

05-20-13, 08:45 AM
The full length video is on youtube, I'm watching it now.