Released on Remembrance Sunday, The Liberator is a gripping war drama that pays tribute to one of the best companies to fight on the front-lines in World War II. This racially integrated unit fought through 500 days of Nazi-occupied territory and along the way saw the horrors of war first-hand.
When Netflix announced a 4-episode animation covering this platoon, it’s worth remembering that The Liberator was originally supposed to be 8 episodes before having its run-time slashed in half. This is pretty significant because while watching this, it’s obvious that the pacing and character development is unfortunately lacking.
It’s a shame because The Liberator does quite well to use its Trioscope enhanced hybrid animation (a technique that blends CGI animation with live-action sequences.) There are a couple of segments that don’t quite work well – namely the horrors of Dachau Holocaust Camp and the shelling sequences – but other times it works beautifully.
For those unaware, the story revolves around an outfit of men who served in the war known as the Thunderbirds. This group comprised of various different nationalities including Mexicans and Indians, who all put aside their differences to fight against the Germans.
Leading these men into battle is Captain Sparks, a deeply loyal man with great affection and respect for his comrades. Across the four episodes, the campaign takes them from Sicily up to France and even deep into the heart of Germany too. While the action comes thick and fast, there’s a consistency to the editing and style to make this as campaign as engaging as possible.
In fact, there’s even some sequences here that feel like they’ve been inspired and borrowed heavily from Band Of Brothers. Episode 2 shows the infamous bloody conflict in Anzio. The main action though is interspersed around scenes in the present of Captain Sparks re-telling his story to an officer. Those with a keen eye will immediately draw parallels to “Crossroads” in HBO’s epic war series.
While the action comes thick and fast, where The Liberator slips up a little is with its characterization. There’s several moments here where soldiers make heroic sacrifices or face an unfortunate end but there’s little build-up to make these moments emotionally engaging.
Don’t get me wrong though, the show definitely has its moments but one can’t help but feel The Liberator could have knocked it out the park completely with another 4 episodes. This could have helped pad everything out and get to know these different soldiers.
One of the best parts of The Liberator though comes from its various scenes depicting the Germans. Episode 3 shows two SS soldiers talking of home while huddled together in the freezing cold. Another time, a Colonel hesitates slightly over his orders and calls a cease-fire to clear the dead off the battlefield.
It’s moments like this that add a rare perspective of the German army, something that’s not always shown very often from war films of its kind. Here though, it’s very much appreciated.
War is hell and in battle there are no real survivors. Even those heroes who made it back from the War, did so scarred and beaten down by what they experienced.
The Liberator is another timely reminder of this and a fine tribute to the men who served under the Thunderbird insignia. While the show is far from perfect, there’s enough here to recommend and make it worth checking out.