There are nighttime battle scenes that last as long as ten minutes in “The Pacific”—an attempt to give viewers some sense of the unrelenting, terrifying reality of it all. This artistic decision echoes the one that Spielberg made in showing us almost half an hour of the Normandy invasion at the beginning of “Saving Private Ryan.” But authenticity in a war movie doesn’t depend exclusively on the accumulation of gory detail; it also requires emotional and psychological realism.
But the filmmakers seem not to have completely trusted the marines’ actual experiences. In a scene on Okinawa, Sledge encounters an old woman in a hut, dying of an infected wound that was probably caused by bomb fragments. At first, he is suspicious of her, and then he realizes that she wants him to shoot her in order to end her pain. Instead, he sits down and holds her, cradling her head, until she dies. In the book, Sledge leaves in search of medical help, while another marine goes into the hut. Sledge hears a shot and asks about it: the marine says that she was “just an old gook who wanted me to put her out of her misery, so I obliged her!”