This beautiful and merciless film is one of the top films of 2014.
1. This is a film that lives up to it’s name. It is a bitter, gorgeous, violent, post-patriotic, post-moral examination of war.
2. Set in Germany during the last month of WWII, it’s about a group of five men and their Sherman tank. A rookie typist is randomly selected to join the crew when one of the five is killed. He is a gentle and religious man, and the movie follows him as the war warps and destroys everything he has believed about the world and about himself.
3. I’ve never seen a war movie focused on tank divisions before, so the battle scenes are not the typical “run up the hill and shoot the bad guy” scenarios we are used to. The fighting is chaotic, suspenseful, and yes, furious.
4. Between the war scenes are battles of a different sort, as each member of the crew tries to maintain their sanity, if not their humanity. They each have different defense mechanisms to deal with the horrors of what they experience. Shia LeBeouf is great as the religious one who tries to increase morale by convincing the crew that they are on God’s side.
5. When I said this movie is violent, I mean, like, really violent. But it’s war, so it’s ok, right?
6. All five of the main actors totally inhabit their characters - there is not a weak performance anywhere. But Brad Pitt deserved to be nominated Best Actor of the Year for his role as leader of the group. He really straddles the line between hope and despair, and watches over his crew like a tired father who knows more than he can ever talk about.
7. The movie drives home the point that idealism is all well and good, but if those ideals are to be maintained, someone has to betray them. The movie deliberately moves past the discussion of good versus evil - such distinctions are for people sitting at home, safe. The soldiers are here simply to kill as many people as they can before they themselves are killed.
8. There is a smoldering, smoky rage that drifts through all the characters in the movie. Rage at the enemy, rage at the war, rage at the world… and rage at themselves.
9. I don’t think this is a movie for the patriotic “Team America” crowd. It’s a beautiful, merciless tour of duty that makes you wonder whether war destroys our humanity, or if war destroys our carefully constructed polite exterior and lets humanity express its natural brutality.