Eight-part saga ‘Long Road Home’ a stunning success.
Whether it’s mere coincidence, or an overt attempt by programmers to court underserved viewers, patriotic dramas pegged to military heroes have popped up all over the broadcast networks this fall.
None of them, however, can match the emotional oomph of “The Long Road Home,” a captivating — and harrowing — true story of bravery, love and sacrifice.
Based on a best- seller by ABC News journalist Martha Raddatz and airing on the National Geographic Channel, the eight-part miniseries recounts the incidents surrounding an event in Iraq that came to be known as “Black Sunday.”
In April 2004, a small platoon of American soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division was patrolling the streets of Sadr City, an impoverished region of Baghdad. They had no reason to suspect trouble. Saddam Hussein was dead, after all, and nearly a year had passed since President Bush delivered his “Mission Accomplished” speech. They were simply involved with peacekeeping duties in an area considered to be “the safest place in Iraq.”
“If there’s a gun going off over there,” says Lt. Shane Aguero (E. J. Bonilla), “it’s probably just some fool celebrating a Cowboys game.”
But on that fateful day, all hell suddenly broke loose. The platoon was ambushed by a group of insurgents firing from rooftops, balconies and back alleys. After a frantic gunfight, the ill- equipped soldiers somehow managed to take refuge in a residence. But they were trapped there without GPS tracking and forced to wait it out for rescue convoys to arrive.
Well-paced and handsomely crafted, “The Long Road Home”
keeps you on edge during the tension- filled gunbattles in Iraq. But the show’s most indelible achievement is the way it immerses viewers in the heads and hearts of not only the soldiers, but the spouses and children anxiously waiting for news back home in Fort Hood, Texas.
Through a series of deft flashbacks, we truly get to know these characters as people. Their panic and desperation is deeply felt. And as we watch from the comfort of our couches, we’re reminded once again of the struggles and sacrifices that military families confront on a daily basis.
“The Long Road Home” features only a handful of recognizable actors — including Jason Ritter, Jeremy Sisto, Sarah Wayne Callies and Michael Kelly. But there are potent performances up and down the cast.
You get the sense that these actors knew they were involved in something incredibly honorable. So they dug deep and brought an extra surge of passion to their roles.
Their commitment certainly shows.
Michael Kelly plays Lt. Col. Gary Volesky in “The Long Road Home.”