A&E Network’s Ike: Countdown to D-Day is an excellent complement to the Home Box Office miniseries Band of Brothers, now airing on A&E sister service The History Channel. Ike gives viewers a look at the planning and decision-making behind sending Easy Company and their brethren to the coast of Normandy.
Ike is part of the blitz of cable programming set to honor the 60th anniversary of the June 6 D-Day invasion. Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I., Turner Network Television’s Monty Walsh) portrays Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who is seen successfully lobbying for supreme command of the Allied forces in Europe during the film’s first few minutes. It then follows Eisenhower as he puts his political and military skills to test, keeping some of history’s greatest military minds — and largest egos — in check.
Selleck’s Ike keeps an even keel, never letting passion or panic cloud his thinking. He deftly handles British Gen. Bernhard Law Montgomery (Bruce Phillips, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), who is unsure of the untested Eisenhower, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American Gen. Omar Bradley (James Remar, Sex and the City), and the bulldog Gen. George S. Patton (Gerald McRaney, Major Dad). All the while, he relies on the counsel of his chief of staff, Walter Smith (Timothy Bottoms, That’s My Bush).
When he hears staggering casualty projections, Eisenhower struggles with the thought of sending so many young men to die. But he resolves that the mission must be successful so they don’t perish in vain. Selleck gives Eisenhower a human touch without diminishing the general’s authoritative exterior, as well as showing frustration when weather threatens to delay the invasion.
Ike gives a nod to Band of Brothers with a reference to King Henry V, which gave the miniseries its name. In the background, an early film version of the Shakespeare play depicts King Henry’s St. Crispain’s Day speech. Ike has a similar seminal moment, visiting paratroopers before they take off for France. Instead of a rousing speech, he raises morale with Kansas charm.
Ike would have been better served if the movie used captions similar to those in Pearl Harbor movie Tora, Tora, Tora to identify the parade of generals and military officials who populate the telefilm. But that is the only drawback to an otherwise excellent glimpse at one of the largest military undertakings in history.
Ike: Countdown to D-Day premieres on A&E Memorial Day, Monday, May 31 at 8 p.m.