reviewed by Tom-Tom
The time is April 1945 and the place is Nazi Germany. Four men are bickering in a tank which is in the aftermath of a terrible battle. An SS Officer is patrolling the perimeter on a white horse. He is promptly tackled and knifed in both eye sockets by Brad Pitt who plays Sergeant Collier, a veteran already with an attitude. The other bickering men are Swan, (Shia LaBeouf), Garcia (Michael Pena), and Travis (Jon Bernthal). Their previous driver is still dead in his seat. They all return to back to base camp all dirty and bloodied. A new recruit who has been a soldier for a mere 8 weeks approaches Collier and introduces himself as Norman (Logan Lerman). Norman is smooth-cheeked and clear eyed. The tank boys initiate him by having him clear up the gore left by his successor after which the poor boy loses his lunch and probably his breakfast too.
Pretty soon the tanks are all lined up and heading towards some location with Norman and all the others aboard. The new guy is on machine gun duty and hesitates to kill German youths armed with bazookas. This allows the young Nazis to attack and burn the acting commander alive causing him to put one in his temple. The action is pretty intense. Collier chides Norman for hesitating. Jason Issacs is waiting at the base camp almost unrecognizable in a New York accent, blood and grime. He curtly gives Collier orders which are vague at best. All are tired of the war hoping the other side will just give up.
There’s an exciting tank battle scene with an unusual characteristic. The Americans shoot with red laser like beams and the Germans shoot with green laser like beams. It has a sort of surreal characteristic that serves to distract from the gore and incessant violence. Norman is convinced to shoot the corpses of Nazis to make sure that they are dead by Garcia to his great displeasure. He is then obliged to murder an unarmed German to, I don’t know, “make his bones” I guess. It’s a harrowing scene and not the last.
They travel to a town and explode townhouses and machine gun more unarmed Germans. The lawlessness of war consumes the film and nothing seems good anymore. Collier and Norman find two German women in an apartment and a light scene ensues aided by the senior officer’s German speaking skills, which aren’t that impressive nor too far a cry from Pitt’s forays into language in the rather disappointing Inglorious Bastards [sic]. The gentile atmosphere is disturbed by the appearance of the other tank members who have all the subtly of the weapon they drive. Soon it’s off to another battle scene on another battlefield but before the shit kicker Travis grapples with Norman shouting things like “This is war.” Yeah, this is a preachy film. One great thing I found about it is that the action is solid and Shia LaBeouf, who has left anything youthful about himself behind. He’s a different person here from anything I’ve ever seen from him. It’s a fantastic performance, layered and deep. I hope it will mean we get to see him in other more mature roles. There’s an interesting battle with the WWII tank equivalent of the Monitor and Merrimac although only one tank is “ironclad” and it is German.
The action becomes deadlier and deadlier and the final scene pits the tank and its crew in an impossible situation of unbearable suspense in a film which gets its action right if not always the dialogue and characterization. One’s thing for sure, you won’t be bored.