Every year around Veterans Day, Netflix releases new content that talks about war and those that were there. In the past, this has included the docu-series such as 5 Came Back and Medal of Honor. Now Netflix has followed this tradition with the release of The Liberator.
Before I get into the story of this series, I have to talk about the visuals. The series was made using “Triscope” which is a mixture of Live-action and CGI animation. Many, myself included, could be confused that what they are watching is rotoscoped. In an interview with Television Business International Brandon Barr, the Chief Content Officer at Triscope Studios explained the difference. The Triscope style allows many of the subtle details that come from an actor’s performance to remain after the animation is overlaid. Now it’s been a minute since I’ve seen a movie with rotoscope in it.
The last one I saw was Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings(1978), so I didn”t know how smooth rotoscoping had gotten over the years. But if the Liberator is anything to go off of then Triscope does live up to what is promised. There’s a scene in the second episode where Capt. Felix Sparks washes his faces and you can see the skin get pulled taught. The specific style used in The Liberator made it look like a comic book come to life, and honestly, I look forward to any of their future projects.
Now onto the story. The Liberator covers the story of Felix Sparks (played by Bradley James) and the 157th Infantry Regiment. This unit fought from the landing of Sicily all the way to the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp. This 4 episode mini-series is adapted from the book of the same name by Alex Kershaw. The series covers the fighting in Italy, the unit’s founding, the attack of Anzio, the winter fighting into Germany, the liberation of Dachau, and returning home. The series features and prominently displays its diverse cast.
It depicts the horrors, brutality, and bluntness beautifully at times. The episodes are littered with the narration of Sparks writing back home to his wife. These moments show the inner turmoil of the battlefield commander that cares for his men. The series also covers the point of view of the men he’s fighting with and the Germans he’s fighting against. These allow the depictions and talks of racism with an integrated unit. Or the sheer brutality the Germans displayed and received as the war dragged on. But that’s not to say that the story is perfect.
Many times however the story is more cliche. Felix Sparks comes off like a character from Call of Duty at times. Now I understand that this story is adapted to the true story, and having not read the book I can’t say how factual this display is. But I do know that this series is going to be compared to Band of Brothers and the Pacific. And it honestly comes off as if it’s trying to be like those series instead of being its own series. Personally, I think it’s because this series is too compressed. A few more episodes would have the series more about the unit than just Felix Sparks. This is important because he is displayed as a commander that thinks of his soldiers first, but the audience doesn’t get a chance to relate to these men as he does.
At the very end of the series text and photographs are displayed that quantify the heroism of the 157. With unbelievable numbers, it’s a shame that more of the acts aren’t displayed. I’m still glad to get a story of the Italian campaign as I feel it’s lost common knowledge. Overall I give this series a 3 out of 5. While the story is fascinating it is rushed and focuses too much on one man. The animation style is breathtaking and a must-see.