Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Year 8, Day 111 - 4/20/16 - Movie #2,311

BEFORE:  Well, it's a little embarrassing, but "Nerdland" proved to be a dead end - I've got no more films with Paul Rudd, no films with Patton Oswalt, no films with anyone from the cast (although it's tough to be sure, I saw other names listed in the "Nerdland" credits that are not on the film's IMDB page, someone needs to update that real soon...)

But, I've decided to do what anyone walking or driving would do when they hit a dead end - and that's back up to the last junction and take another path.  So Paul Rudd links through "Ant-Man" to Michael Peña, and this was the next film that was going to come after "Ant-Man" anyway because of that connection, so we continue.  

And although I don't believe in divine providence, it seems that the late addition of "Nerdland" has moved this World War II movie, set in Germany, onto April 20, which is Hitler's birthday.  It's things like this that make me believe some larger organizational process is at work, even if it stems from my own subconscious.

THE PLOT:  As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened Army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and his five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines.

AFTER: As an extra bonus, this is set in APRIL of 1945, and we're in April now.  You know I love when things happen like that.  

You kind of know when a war film gets touted for its "realism" that it's probably not going to have a feel-good sort of ending.  Meaning not all of the characters introduced at the beginning are going to make it out alive.  Look, I'm not an expert on tanks or warfare (and yes, there are probably "war nerds" who would pick this apart) but all you really need to know is that "war is hell".  

But it's a bit of a war-movie trope to fall back on telling the story through the eyes of the new, young soldier, and the older sergeant who takes him under his wing, but also teaches him the tough lessons about war.  So on one level, it's just "Platoon", but taking place in a different war - for that matter, it's every war film who tried to show the horror of it through the eyes of a (relative) innocent.  

It turns out that killing your first German is hard, but after that it gets much easier (hmm, there's a weird tie-in with "Nerdland" there, but no spoilers...).  Same goes for sleeping with your first German woman when you liberate her town - they'll all have sex with soldiers in exchange for a chocolate bar and some cigarettes, don't ya know.  By the time you get to the tenth town or so, the process is relatively routine.  

But you can't allow war to be routine, because each town is different, the Nazis are hiding in a different place, taking cover in a different way.  But there's a weird symmetry when the way that the Germans hide from the tanks to the climactic sequence, when the tank crew is forced to pull their own form of subterfuge, in a desperate attempt to survive a whole battalion of SS Panzer troopers. 

NITPICK POINT: There's an explanation or two about "tracer rounds", how every fifth bullet can be seen visually,  which aids the tank crew in targeting.  But this effect was used perhaps a bit too much, and as a result many of the battles resembled ones you might see in a "Star Wars" film, with elongated laser blasts of green and red being exchanged by troops.  I realize that calling soldiers in Star Wars "stormtroopers" hearkens back to the Nazis, but that's no reason for a battle in a WWII film to resemble an exchange from a sci-fi film.  

Also starring Brad Pitt (last seen in "12 Years a Slave"), Shia LaBeouf (last seen in "Lawless"), Logan Lerman (last seen in "Noah"), Jon Bernthal (last seen in "The Wolf of Wall Street"), Jim Parrack, Brad William Henke (last seen in "Jobs"), Jason Isaacs (last heard in "Batman: Under the Red Hood"), Kevin Vance, Scott Eastwood, Anamaria Marinca, Alicia von Rittberg,

RATING:  6 out of 10 Bible passages

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