by Tony Medley
Running time 134 minutes.
Not for Children.
This has the Alpha and Omega of World War II movies in the same movie.
For the Alpha, it is probably one of the most realistic depictions of
war ever filmed; in parts, that is.
For the Omega director David Ayer has adopted scenes that seem straight
out of Terrence Malick’s remake of James Jones' The Thin Red Line
(1998), one of the worst war movies ever made (see below).
The film tells the story of a tank commander, Don “Wardaddy” Collier
(Brad Pitt) as he commands a group of four tanks in April 1945 just a
few weeks before the Germans surrendered. It pits Wardaddy with a fuzzy
cheeked new recruit, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), as they are given
orders first to relieve some troops trapped in the field and, then,
to protect a road from the Germans.
The troops under Wardaddy's command; Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf), the gunner;
Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal), the loader, Trini Garcia (Michael Peña),
the driver, and Norman, who is the assistant driver, are all battle
hardened killers, except for Norman, who is reluctant to kill. They are
a crude bunch with little sensitivity, which is understandable after what they’ve seen
and been through. But
Collier takes Norman under his wing and tries to make a soldier out of
The battle scenes are very good, except at the end when the last 20 minutes
or so is ruined because it is so Hollywood. Borrowing straight from Malick,
Ayer has a brutal battle stop dead in its tracks so that
various of our heroes may die with last words that are not burdened by
the sounds of battle. I actually laughed out loud when he did this with
one of the characters; it was ludicrous. Further, the outnumbered
Americans put up such a battle against what seems to be a battalion of
the Nazi Waffen SS it defies credibility. One of the final scenes where
SS soldier spares the life of one of the Americans just does not stand
up to who the SS was and how they were picked to be in the elite force.
The people in the Waffen SS were heartless, devoid of compassion or they never
would’ve made it into the SS. Ayer had no reason to designate the German
troops as Waffen SS. Had they simply been part of the Wehrmacht (the SS
was a part of the Nazi Party; the Wehrmacht comprised the German armed
forces), such a scene
might have been believable, leading me to conjecture that maybe Ayer
doesn't know the difference between the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS.
It’s hard for me to comprehend how a movie up until then could have been
so well made with so many scenes that capture the
brutality and hopelessness of war, and then throw in an ending that is
almost straight out of a comic book.
Needless to say the movie is far too long, although it is exhausting to
sit through because of the realism. With a better ending I would’ve
given this a 10.