I was surprised that this wasn’t one of those things that’s “based on a true story” but then completely fictionalized. It’s a fictional story from director David Ayer, who always goes over-the-top in very unrealistic ways. Two movies I disliked were Training Day (which he wrote) and End of Days (which he wrote and directed). This is his attempt at making an important war film, but it’s rather conventional, and filled with stereotypical characters. Nothing here you haven’t seen done better in movies like The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, and every other war picture.
This story involves a five-man tank crew that gets surrounded by German soldiers. The American crew is commanded by Brad Pitt, playing the same scarred character he did in Inglourious Basterds.
Often times, the dialogue in this made me cringe. Discussions about whether or not there’s a God, the idiotic ramblings of the red-neck character, and picking on the new guy (Logan Lerman). Oh, that’s one of those idiotic storylines we’ve seen before. He’s a clerk typist that has been in the Army a few weeks and gets sent to the front lines. He’s scared, doesn’t shoot people, and when he finally does – he spends the rest of the movie screaming things like “Die you f***ing Nazis!”
Shia LaBeouf, with facial hair, plays a somewhat interesting character that is fond of the Bible. Michael Pena (End of Days), as the mechanic, was interesting in the first half of the film. The rest of the cast is rather forgettable.
In a lot of war movies, you like the various characters. The ones you don’t, you can forgive their brutish nature because of the hell they’re put through. In this, I hated them all. I suppose you like Pitt, because he has a method to his madness. He has to make his men stay ready to fight. Yet when there’s a scene with him and his crew having dinner with a few German women – it’s all just so weird. These soldiers are such goons, you almost don’t care if they’re shot and killed. Perhaps Pitt is trying to just light a fire under the new guy when he tells him to take a girl to bed (“She’s a good, clean girl. If you don’t take her into that bedroom, I will.”). But to me, that’s a threat of rape. Are we supposed to cheer the fact that this young soldier loses his virginity and not think about how these women were forced into this situation? I couldn’t help think about Casualties of War (Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox) at that moment, even though it appears the woman seemed to have an interest in this young soldier.
There are a few interesting scenes. The moments of boredom the soldiers have when they aren’t in battle. The claustrophobic nature we felt when we were inside the tank (real Sherman and Tiger tanks from World War II were used). Another scene shows people in a village hanged, with signs that said “Cowards who didn’t fight for our country.”
Some might argue that this is important because it shows the atrocities of battle, but don’t all war films?
If you saw the commercial and thought this looked good, you won’t be disappointed. If war movies don’t do anything for you and you’re burned out on them – stay away. There’s nothing new to see here.
It gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.