“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”
This is a film about a USA Sherman tank crew in Germany in April, 1945. Led by Sergeant Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), they fight, fight, and fight again. Mostly the enemy, but sometimes among themselves, especially with the addition of a rookie soldier, ex typist Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) to replace a fatal casualty. The crew is rounded out with Boyd Swan (Shia Lebeouf), Trini Garcia (Michael Pena), and Grady Travis (John Bernthal).
The action scenes are well done in the main, though the concluding scene is frankly utter nonsense, and any historian watching it will be shaking his head. For example, there’s not a single USA artillery unit in action for the whole film. Considering how well stocked that army was with artillery support, that is stretching disbelief too far. (I am sure it was important for some artistic reason. But it’s daft.)
The performances from the crew are tight, believable, and often intense, but never over the top. The cinematography is good, though the abundant supply of tracer ammunition lighting up the combat scenes is a little off putting. Only a little. It doesn’t make it too much like Star Wars!
There are some flourishes that jar, such as the opening scene of the German officer on the white horse, and the later appearance of a(nother?) white horse. The love interest is unnecessary and a strange mix of saccharin and vinegar. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the plot. Suffice it to say, there are several war crimes committed by the USA forces in the film. We do also see some German atrocities, but the free wheeling dispensing of death by Wardaddy especially may jar. That’s not necessarily historically lacking, but the film’s treatment of these episodes seemed lackluster and offhand. Maybe that was the point.
If nothing else, the film is an excellent reminder of the bloody bill of war, and the dreadful sacrifice paid by the young. History is, indeed, violent.
Well worth seeing.