Because we are Americans, it is second nature for us to pull for American soldiers in a war movie, especially a World War II movie where we know that the Nazis are the most evil enemy we have ever fought. But by the time this movie was over, I was pretty much past those preconceptions.
Had I not known anything about WWII, I would have been pulling for the Germans to kill all the evil Americans, who murder surrendering prisoners, rape innocent women, act like brutes, and bully the new recruit because he is a little guy who can’t defend himself. The only suggestion that the Germans were evil in this movie was the way they hanged the draft dodgers and forced young teenagers to fight, but that seems almost benign compared to what we see the Americans do.
The movie centers around a tank crew led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt). A replacement, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), is added to the crew, and he is immediately badgered and bullied by the rest of them, all of whom are bigger than he is in addition to outnumbering him, so there is no chance that he could defend himself. You see, there they are in the middle of Germany toward the end of the war, but this tank crew isn’t satisfied to have the Germans for enemies, so they figure they will try to make an enemy out of this new guy as well.
Now, Don’s motive for treating Norman roughly is to toughen him up, so that he will be able to commit war crimes just like the rest of them. But Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal) and Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña) are mean to him for a much more basic reason, which is that cruelty is fun. I found myself hoping that Norman was just waiting for the chance to be alone with any one of them and would then put a bullet in his back.
The ultimate absurdity in this movie comes when Don and Norman go into an apartment where there are two German women. Don says to Norman regarding the younger of the two, “If you don’t take her into that bedroom, I will.” Reluctantly, Norman takes the girl into the bedroom. When they close the door behind them, Don says to the other woman, “They’re young, and they’re alive.” Aw! Isn’t that sweet? Rape can be so lovely and romantic when it occurs during wartime.
I really was glad that, except for Norman, the Americans in the tank all died in the end. They deserved it.