Written and Directed By David Ayer
I can understand when people tell me they are burned out on war movies, feeling like they have seen them all before. This one brings a slightly different slant to the genre, focusing on a small tank unit led by a man nicknamed Wardaddy (an excellent Brad Pitt), allowing us inside the cramped, claustrophobic world that allows him to feel free and alive while surrounded by oppression and unspeakable death. Yes, war is Hell and we all know that the idea has been ridden into the ground, but it’s one that doesn’t suffer from being repeated, especially in times where more large-scale conflict doesn’t seem too far away. History being doomed to repeat itself and all that, we could benefit from these sort of reminders. Where the war genre can still make itself memorable is with set pieces and cast work, and this film brings both. The remainder of his crew are played superbly by Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña and Shia LaBeouf and their camaraderie is great to watch. Logan Lerman plays Norman, a glorified desk clerk who somehow finds his way into this Panzer unit, against all odds and logic. This trope is where the film falters, especially as it relates to the climax and believability factor. But what the script lacks in originality it makes up for in tank-related action, which is very intense to watch and feels as gritty as it does scary. The final set piece borders on the absurd but in the best of ways, giving way to an absolutely beautiful final shot that will stick with me for a long time. Pitt and Lerman shine together, especially during a long scene midway through the movie where they try to find a bit of normalcy within the chaos, eating a meal and fornicating with some local German women in a nice apartment. Of course it doesn’t last, because this is war and we need fodder to push Norman’s arc forward, but Wardaddy’s insistence on trying to find some peace, however brief, is great to watch, especially once the rest of his unit crashes the party. In such a violent and awful situation, we would all naturally cling to any semblance of what we were used to and hoped to continue seeing in the world, but writer/director David Ayer reminds us that these nice things are not meant to last. The film may be bleak, but it is with purpose.