There’s something very haunting about Discovery’s new series “Taking Fire,” and how unflinching its perspective is.
In many ways, it’s like various other docu-series. We see professionals in their element, walking us through their everyday life. But Taking Fire isn’t an ordinary show, because it’s not exactly glorifying the lifestyle. Instead, the series directly presents the harsh realities of war. The five-part series follows the 101st Airborne platoon, filled primarily with rookie soldiers, deployed in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. Within the pilot alone, we see several instances of violence and action where any of the real soldiers could’ve been killed. It’s an edge that’s hard to ignore, and sets Taking Fire apart.
While the focus of Taking Fire’s pilot jumps around a bit, there’s no mistaking the gravity of every situation presented. Focusing on such a dangerous area, with a relatively fresh squadron, the risks are high. Within the pilot alone, you have firefights, bomb threats, and even death, all within the span of a forty minutes. It’s so clinical, unlike the glorified action scenes you see in war-related blockbusters. The action is neither glorified, nor toned down for camera – you can feel the tension and fear in every scene. And by focusing on a select few soldiers – primarily Privates J.J. McCool and Kyle Boucher – we don’t get any kind of A-Team or 13 Hours vibe. It’s focused on a select few real people, and their importance of each moment is stressed because of this.
Not only is the subject matter haunting, but the way it’s presented onscreen contributes to the experience. Each soldier has their name floating above their heads while onscreen. Every weapon gets a stat screen, detailing just what each weapon can do. It’s the kind of detail you’d expect to see in a video game, not attributed to real people. It’s another interesting comment on the popular depictions of war in pop culture. This kind of material may be turned into video games, and made popular for children. It’s too easy to forget the real lives that are lost. Even the soldiers compare the kind of impression they had of hardships before their assignment: “We thought we were men, but… looking back, we were boys.” This juxtaposition of video-game styled information with real life scenarios is haunting and all too appropriate for the series.
In many ways, Taking Fire is the perfect counter to the action-sequence-heavy work often shown today. It’s not the kind of explosion-heavy, money-grabbing project we frequently see. Taking Fire is explosive and grippy in its own right. It presents a real, unique story, with an unflinchingly raw lens. Taking Fire is the perfect context for anyone who really has an interest in what war looks like.
Premieres on Tuesday, September 13th at 10 p.m.