Review of the animated military miniseries The Liberator

Pros: The series is based on real events; simple true military history; unusual visual style Cons: The combination of live actors and cartoon backdrops doesn’t always work; not all actors play at the proper level; not everyone will like the style The Liberator

Genre military drama
Creator Jeb Stewart
Starring Bradley James (Felix Sparks), Jose Miguel Vazquez (Avel Gomez), Martin Sensmeier (Samuel Coldfoot) and others.
Netflix channel
Release year 2020
Series 4
Site IMDb

The Liberator is an adaptation of Alex Kershaw’s 2012 nonfiction book The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey. In this work, Kershaw uses his favorite technique – a thorough study of one person, one unit or one military conflict. This time, the object of the author’s attention was Officer Felix “Shotgun” Sparks, commander of the 157th Infantry Regiment of the US Army, and at the beginning of the war – the commander of the Thunderbird Battalion (“Thunderbird”), which served as Native Americans, Mexicans and white southerners, people who, in peacetime conditions, would hardly have sat at the same table, but who became a family at the front.


The Thunderbird Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, and the 45th Infantry Division they were part of, spent 511 days on the front lines, one of the longest periods in the history of the US Army. Felix Sparks took part in the landings in Sicily in the summer of 1943, in the bloody Battle of Anzio in January-June 1944, in the landings in southern France on August 15, 1944, in the Battle of the Bulge – “Battle of the Bulge ”) in December 1944 – January 1945 and the battle for Aschaffenburg in the last days of the war. Sparks’ unit was one of the first to enter the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.


In a word, Felix Sparks saw a lot in the war, lost comrades, saw cruelty and stupidity. The story of Sparks and his soldiers is an honest war drama, down to earth and very simple. No complicated plots, unexpected twists and brilliant directing. The deaths here are sudden and absurd; few behave like a hero under fire; command makes mistakes that cost the lives of the good guys, and so on. No pathos, throwing breasts on the embrasure, etc. Fatigue, cold, rain and death. Sparks buries comrades, takes command of new units, becomes callous, but continues to support his soldiers and do what he thinks is right.

However, despite the earthiness, there are still several emotional episodes that can squeeze out a tear in the film. Scene with a girl in Aschaffenburg. Scene at Dachau. Anzio. Episode with General Patton. But the most, in my opinion, the strongest scene of the series is the episode in which Sparks, accused of AWOL, comes to surrender to the military police.


The Liberator is filmed in an unusual technique that combines live action with hand-drawn backdrops. This is a hybrid technology of the Trioscope studio, which allows, according to the authors, to create a “dramatic picture”. The use of Trioscope in the work on the cartoon was supposed to make it more adult, provide the right level of drama, bring the image closer to the documentary, making it “dirty” and grainy. In fact, the picture in the series turned out to be too playful, reminiscent of cel-shading and looking very strange at times. So the uniforms and weapons of the characters became somehow too toy, and the drawn backdrops and live actors sometimes do not fit exactly and “float” like a picture with an overlay in old films. Plus, the performance of the supporting actors leaves much to be desired, and since the live characters are transferred to the cartoon picture almost without change, this is clearly noticeable and gives the impression of a bad theatrical production. The actors portraying the Germans were especially “distinguished”.


By and large, only the leading actors Bradley James (Felix Sparks), Jose Miguel Vasquez (Avel Gomez) and Martin Sensmeier (Samuel Coldfoot) play well in The Liberator. Bradley James may be familiar to you from Merlin, where he played Arthur, or Medici, where he played Giuliano de’ Medici.

The Liberator / “The Liberator” is probably not the strongest military series of recent years, and the laurels of Band of Brothers, which the creators clearly looked up to, do not threaten him. But this is an honest military history, a look at the war from the point of view of one person who went through it from beginning to end. It deserves respect. If the visual style does not cause you absolute rejection, the series is quite worth watching, especially since there are only four episodes of 50 minutes each.

PS An excellent science fiction film A Scanner Darkly based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick with Keanu Reeves in the title role would have been made in the same technique.


The honest story of an American officer who went through the entire war in Europe

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