Film Review : Sicario (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

Directed By – Denis Villenuvue
Starring – Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber, Jon Berntha, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffery Donovan, Maximiliano Hernández, and Julio Cedillo

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

I’m back. No explanation needed. I’m back.

I’m confronted with an interesting question after today. Who is the best working director in the present time? Before this morning, the answer was simple, Paul Thomas Anderson. How could it not be him? The Master? Masterpiece. There Will Be Blood? Masterpiece. I have Inherent Vice coming into my mailbox for a second viewing tomorrow, but after the first viewing, it seems his latest effort has fallen short of such previous accolades. What other directors deserve such mention? Well, if Shane Carruth could put out more than one film every eight years I’d say he deserves mention. The Coen brothers have been as consistent as anybody working today but it’s that consistency that seems to prevent them from pushing themselves to the top in my opinion. I’m a man of change, a man of ever evolving interests and I need a director that encompasses such a viewpoint. Insert Denis Villenueve. Like Paul Thomas Anderson, Villenuve has a very broad and diverse resume of films. He’s covered psychological thrillers with Enemy, drama with Prisoners and Incendies, and even the art house quiet film that is Maelstrom. Let me get this out of the way, Incendies is one of my favorite films of all time. It slays me, every time. I’ve been hooked to Villenuve ever since he opened Incendies with a close up shot of a middle eastern child soldier set to Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army”. Prisoners was haunting. Enemy was baffling. Now, he comes along with a film like Sicario and I’m left puzzling over whether this auteur from Canada could really be my favorite working director I still don’t have a clear answer, but honestly, right now, I think I have a feeling. Denis Villenuve may just have beat out PTA for the top spot in my highly coveted favorite director position. It’s an honor both earned, and deserved. Let us talk about his latest film…Sicario.

Has a film started out with such a bang before?

Jesus. What a way to open a film.

The thought of a SWAT team operation is reserved for the pivotal action set piece in most films and here we have Villenuvue opening his film with a full on tactical assault on a house in what seems to be Walter Whites neighborhood. What follows is nothing short of horror. I’m sitting in my chair, nails deep in my arm rests and it’s only been fifteen minutes into the film. I know what I’m dealing with and I know what is at stake.

I live in New Jersey. That is a far ways away from Mexico. I don’t really understand what it is like living next to such a country. I mean, I live next to New York. I’ve walked those streets. Never have I felt like I was in any danger. Mexico? That’s another world altogether. I can’t even imagine living in Juarez if it’s anything like how it’s portrayed in this film. It is hell on Earth, a warzone dolled up like a functioning city. In a way, this was the most shocking part of this film, that such a place can exist.

Villenueve knows what the fuck he is doing. This story is actually kind of simple. You take a cop from a Kidnapping division and insert her into a big boy league narcotics assault division. These people know how to get results. They laugh at fear. An average director would take such a premise and throw glitter at it, add a couple CGI action scenes and call it a day. Not Villneuve. There isn’t a single scene in this film that doesn’t reek with the smell of dread. The opening sequences only set a precedent that is carried out throughout the duration of the film. This is life. This is Juarez. Get used used to it. I was blown away by the rawness and overall bleak nature that Villenuve showed us in nearly every scene. Sure there were some scenes of humor, like the shot of Josh Brolin sitting in a meeting room wearing sandals as if they weren’t talking about a psychotic drug lord, but rather who was going to bring the potato salad to the company picnic. These moments are always snuffed out though with a musical score that reminds the viewer…hey, this is real shit. This isn’t some run of the mill TV episode about how the drug trade is supposed to work. This is why I love Villenueve. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. He doesn’t hold back when you think they should. He has close ups of rotting dead corpses. The has lingering shots of bodies hanging from Juarez overpasses. If the general tone is supposed to be horrific and uneasy, he’s going to show you. It’s reason why this film sticks out over the rest. It’s a raw hellride of momentous proportion.

Jesus, I haven’t even mentioned the acting. I’m not a big defender on the importance of awards season, but if Benicio Del Tori and Emily Blunt don’t get recognition for their roles in this film then there is something rotten in the state of Denmark if you know what I mean. Blunt carries the film for the most part with an absolutely dedicated and harrowing performance. She does this however, knowing, that this really isn’t her film. She isn’t really the main character in my opinion. Sure she gets the most screen time and fully takes advantage of this by giving a career performance, but this sin’t her film.

This is Benicio Del Toro’s film.

We’ve all seen what this man can do. He’s a virtuoso. A chameleon. His performance in this film only goes to show he’s one of the mot underrated actors working in Hollywood today. Del Toro SLAYS this role. His importance to the mission within the film is questioned throughout the run time but only towards the end do we know why his character is so important to the film and this is where Del Toro really shines as a menacing force. Every time he’s on screen I reel back with anticipation on what he’s going to do next. Even when he’s in a situation where the action should be the main player, he’s taking over the scene with his presence. By the end, you don’t know whether he’s somebody you should root for or somebody you should root against, and he plays this uncertainty brilliantly. He shines.

Cudos to my man Roger Deakins. I mean, I really don’t have to say that. He’s a master of his craft and only proves so again with his gorgeous cinematography. This film is all over the spectrum visually with scenes coming at night when the horizon is open with a Mexican sky unlike any other. His night vision and thermal camera scenes are perfect and engaging. Villenuve and Deakins team up to provide what is easily the most intense and “on the edge of your seat” harrowing extraction scene through Juarez that holds up to any action scene in recent history. I can’t stress that enough. From the moment they left in their caravan til the moment they arrived back at the base, I was enthralled. It’s easily one of the most adrenaline fueled scenes in recent memory for me. I loved it. I had to catch my breath at the end of it.

I just can’t say enough about this film. It’s a raw and brutal telling about the Mexican drug trade and doesn’t shy away from showing what horror such a business can show. The camera work, acting, musical score, and story pacing are top of their game good and I’m literally drooling at the chance to see this again. I’ve been a big fan of Denis Villenuve for years now and he never ceases to let me down. With all the “action” films released this year, besides Mad Max, this is your chance to see a film that not only provides top of its class action, but also a story and visual presence that will linger and make you think long after the credits roll. It’s my film of the year so far.

5/5




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Review : Jurassic World (2015) *Minor Spoilers*

IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 70%
Metacritic Score – 59/100

Directed By – Colin Trevorrow
Starring – Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Judy Greer, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Andy Buckley, Lauren Lapkus, and Katie McGrath

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.

As I write this, over 200 million dollars has been spent over the weekend by people going to see Jurassic World. I’m curious as to what those people thought as they left the theater. Honestly, I have no idea what to think. Part of me thinks it was fun as shit and completely validates the enormous haul it took in over the weekend. Part of me thinks that it was atrocious and makes Jurassic Park 3 look like The Empire Strikes Back. Let’s try to figure this one out together.

There is a big difference between this film and the previous three. The park is open. The park is developed. The park has a shit ton of dinosaurs. The park is so big in fact that the 20,000 people that are currently on the island serve as a main motivation for figuring out how to fix the colossal mess that our smart and sophisticated characters have cooked up. Director Colin Trevorrow and the writing team had to figure out ways to include character development into a setting that also housed thousands of people. Honestly, they didn’t do a bad job…with the main characters. The secondary characters however were misused so bad that I didn’t care at all what happened to them. Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is introduced as a stuck up, out of touch with humanity workaholic that cares more about her job than her two nephews who are visiting the park. Her character, throughout the film, goes through a transformation that I feel was actually earned. Chris Pratt, who by the way was in the Navy if you didn’t know after the 15th time they mentioned it, is a total badass. These two characters are perhaps the only characters in the entire film that I gave a sh*t about. The kids were poorly constructed cliches of boys of their age. The youngest is about 11 and if you didn’t know…eleven year olds are REALLY into dinosaurs. The older one was about 16 and was so stereotypical teenager that the writer might have actually googled “what do teenagers do” when creating him. We’ll get to the rest in a minute.

There is a theme going on right now in Hollywood. Let’s take a director that made a well regarded yet small indie sci-fi film and give them the reigns to a half a billion dollar mammoth of a budget. Josh Trank got Fantastic Four. Gareth Edwards got Godzilla. Rian Johnson got Star Wars. To me, this can either go two ways. You either get a film that has the aesthetics and characteristics of a new era or you get an over zealous attempt to try to join the ranks of superior films. I can’t blame the directors really. It’s like giving the best young go-kart driver the keys to an indy car. I feel that Colin Trevorrow, whole talented, was given the reigns to a franchise that he just wasn’t ready for. I felt the film was trying WAY too hard to do too many things. Because he’s a good director, he succeeded in some places. Other places he failed miserably. Let’s see what he did right.

The effects

I’ll admit. The effects in this were pretty awesome. Sure the sight of CGI dinosaurs was a bit distracting at first, but you got used to it and started to get a feel for why they had to be CGI. There were scenes in this film where you just couldn’t use anything else but CGI. The action in this film was all over the place instead of precisely timed bursts. There were only a few scenes that slowed down enough for the SFX tea to use animatronics instead of computer generated dinosaurs. That being said, the action scenes were well done. The last battle was one of the best of the entire series and had me actually on the edge of my seat. All the dinosaurs were rendered beautifully and the film was actually pretty violent. One death scene in particular was especially gruesome. It involved basically being repeatedly dragged around and eaten by two dinosaurs. I’m shocked that got through the censors considering this film is rated PG-13. The SFX team did a great job.

The acting

This is a case where the efforts of few trumped the many. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard knocked it out of the park. Chris Pratt should basically be in everything as far as I’m concerned. He’s the Harrison Ford of this generation. He’s funny, endearing, physically built, and just melts into every scene his is in so naturally that it draws you into the movie better. Bryce Dallas Howard’s transformation towards the end won me over. I was reminiscent of Noomi Rapace in Prometheus where, once the shit starts to hit the fan, a true horror actress blossoms out of nothing. The dirtier Howard got in the film, the better and more believable she got. The rest of the cast was very meh, but I enjoyed the two leads so much that it didn’t matter. Now let’s get to my biggest gripe with the film, and ultimately the reason I didn’t love the movie…

The Script

The movie went from boring to “WHAT THE FUCK AM I WATCHING?” so fast that my head spun. There were so many peppered in jokes that weren’t funny that I started to get embarrassed and covered my face. There were cliche kiss scenes, predictable dialogue, and the near cock tease of character development before an untimely death. I won’t name the characters, but there are at least two that have completely unnecessary character development that leads straight to a death. You can’t do that. That is Game of Thrones type shit that I get so frustrated with. I’m not saying you can’t kill a character. I’m not saying that every character that dies has to have no back story. They way they did it in the film though, was just so silly. Let’s just say that the same reason I hated Bane’s death in The Dark Night Rises is the same gripe I have with the two main characters who die in this film. At least give them something special to go out on except a death scene cut right to another action piece.

I also had a huge problem with how they used the raptors.

*this might get spoiler-y*

Raptors are feared dinosaurs in every single film about dinosaurs that has ever existed. This film treats them like dogs. It LITERALLY treats them like dogs, complete with obedience, loyalty, and feelings. I’m sorry, but Raptors don’t have fucking feelings. They don’t get sentimental about a character who feeds them. Hell, if the film showed us that Chris Pratt raised these fuckers from birth it’d be one thing. The film made it a mission to point out that every single dinosaur on the island was genetically created and modified by scientists. These things should have only two functions, which actually gets pointed out in the film…eating, hunting, and fucking. That’s all. No fucking memories of when Chris Pratt threw rats at us and used his clicker thingie to get us to chase goats. Fuck that. That’s stupid. The fact that they actually have full on conversations with each other…and another specific dinosaur…is just stupid. I’m not talking about dinosaur language. I’m talking about literally at one point one dinosaur looks at another and says “thanks for fighting with me. It has been a pleasure” while the other dinosaur responds “the pleasure was all mine.”. That’s how it was shot. That’s how it was conveyed. I literally threw my hands up and said aloud “what the fuck is going on?”

Look, I don’t expect Scorsese or Kubrick when I go see a film about a dinosaur amusement park. The film was fun and was filled with action and Chris Pratt. That alone is worth your 13 dollars. I could not however get over the stupid jokes at inopportune times, the cliche “every Michael Bay has these” moments of dialogue and kiss scenes, and the complete misuse of terror inducing velocoraptors like they were dogs. Trevorrow seemed to change his mind constantly throughout the film about what kind of movie this was going to be. The plot was all over the place, trying to be funny one moment, while switching gears on a dime and expecting the audience to be terrified. It’s a mess.

Yet, the film is making a shit ton of money. There will be more. I hope they find good writers but as long as Chris Pratt is involved, I’ll go see it.

Also, Bryce Dallas Howard ran away from gigantic killing machines in heals. Enough said.

2.5/5





Film Review : Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

It’s opening night, so ratings aren’t really needed. The reviews are unbelievably good though

Directed By – George Miller
Starring – Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, JOsh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, and Richard Carter

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

For the first time since The Dark Night, I have dragged myself out to a theater to see a big name film on opening night. I just don’t do it. I like to get to the theater on dead nights and a week or two after the film has come out. It’s just quieter. For some reason I really wanted to see this film as soon as I could due to all the rave reviews I’ve been seeing so far. Rave reviews for an R rated reboot/sequel of a franchise that hasn’t had a film in over 20 years? Yeah, I had to see it. I’m glad I did. It ended up being a fucking blast.

I haven’t seen a Mad Max film since high school. I think a bunch of us sat down and just put them on one after the other and got drunk. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of the universe. The movies were great. Don’t get me wrong. I just wasn’t part of the culture of Mad Max. I was always a Water World type of person.

That’s a joke.

George Miller’s return to non-dancing/talking animals is pretty special. I don’t think I’ve seen a resurrection like this in a long ass time. The film was kick fucking ass. I can’t really call myself a huge action film person. I love story and character development and most of them are missing those two elements. A good handful of films have been able to not only include those two qualities, but also deliver some breathtaking set pieces to go along with it. I’m a fan of the last two Planet of the Apes films. The Batman trilogy was solid. The original Die Hard is one of my favorite films. Besides Batman, I like my action films without superheroes. It’s no surprise that I ended up liking this film so much. As completely batshit insane this movie was, I didn’t really get a sense that none of it could ever happen. The action was somewhat realistic, if we were to ever get as savage as these people that is.

To be honest, I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on for the first ten minutes or so of the film. It was a little jarring to just be shoved into this world of huge lady breast feeding, white zombie looking fellas, and roving marauders with no fear of death. Thankfully this wasn’t a huge deal. I quickly learned that I didn’t need to know anything about this world that they were in. The planet is shit and most people are shit. Here’s a truck with Charlize Theron in it. Go! I was on board.

Speaking of Charlize Theron, this is her movie. I know it is called Mad Max. I know that Tom Hardy was very good in the lead role, but I wasn’t way more drawn to Theron as Furiosa. She’s the one that started this whole movie into overdrive. Hell, without her, Max would still be a hood ornament. The fact that was kicked just as much ass as Max while only having one arm was also a major draw in. I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie that completely focused on her. Theron was that good.

The action was pretty phenomenal. There were some quiet scenes that pushed the story forward a little bit but for the most part the audience is treated to balls to the fucking floor action. Like a nine year old’s Legos box, the vehicles that came from left to right over the course of the movie ranged from terrifying to hilarious. You had spiked cruisers, sand bikes, teeter totter trucks, and my favorite of all, the sound trailer. I wonder how my man got the job on the guitar? Dude has it made. Actually, Miller was able to not only show us an insane character like the guitar marauder, but his inclusion actually helped make the score more intense. I was on the edge of my seat during these car chases.

If you want to have more films like this in theaters, then go see this movie. Huge budget rated R films don’t happen a thousand times a year. Go and see this film to show that there is an audience for these kind of movies. Go see the film because it’s looney-bin crazy too. That’s also a reason to go.

4.5/5





Two Film Review : Interstellar and Birdman

You may be wondering why I’m lumping these three films into one post. Well, fact of the matter is that both Interstellar and Birdman need second viewings from me to really get into full review mode. I have pretty laid out opinions on both but I don’t think I could justify a full post for each one without having seen the film a second time.

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Christopher Nolan
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Josh Stewart, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher race, and fucking finally, Ellen Burystn

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Okay, I need to get this out of the way first. I saw this film almost three weeks ago. If you have not seen this film in a REAL IMAX theater with 70mm film, please do so. It will most likely be one of the last times you will seeing something this new be projected on film. The projectionist in me had a field day with this one. I was privileged to be able to see this at the Lincoln Center IMAX which is one of the largest screens in the country and most likely the world. Regardless of your opinion of the film, it’s something to be seen in 70mm before film goes the way of the 8 track and seatbeltless vehicles.

That being said, I didn’t particularly love this movie. I didn’t really hate it either. What I ultimately came to was a feeling of mild satisfaction mixed with utter bewilderment. I’ve been a fan of Nolan from the beginning. I generally believe The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige to be some of the best films of the decade. Interstellar marks the second film in a row from Nolan that not only failed to meet my expectations but seemed to lack in the screenwriting that characterized his earlier films. This was just a mess story wise from beginning to end. In fact, parts of it nearly ruined the whole thing for me.There were instances in the film where decisions were made at the blink of an eye, huge decisions, LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS, MADE AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES OF THOUGHT. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is the worst father ever. What he does to his daughter in this film is just atrocious. I hated his character for like 40 minutes after this happened. There is also huge jumps in timeline. Basically Matthew McConaughey goes from farmer to in space in like three days. Sure, he was a NASA fighter pilot a long ass time ago, but you don’t get trained for space in three days. You just don’t do it.

The dialogue was also pretty bad. Anne Hathaway delivers a monologue in the middle of the film, about love, that nearly had me puking in the auditorium. It came off so cheesy and forced that I couldn’t stand it. A big character reveal in the middle of the film also progressed in a way that could be seen a mile away. This character also forgets who he is and ruins pretty much everything. The end of the film, which will be talked about for some time as it is very “2001”-esque, kind of muddles the entire thing for me. Like, I get where they were going with that. I get how unimaginable space can be an how it works, but to put it all together like that just seemed like Nolan was trying to be more profound than he needed to be. I don’t like throwing around the word pretentious often because I think that it insults creativity, but the end of this film teetered on being a bit pretentious. Also, the BIG emotional reunion end the end of the film, the one that the audience has been waiting for the entire three fucking hours, was over in like four sentences. Seriously, fuck Matthew McConaughey’s character in this movie. He’s the worst.

What did I like? First off the acting was pretty top notch. Matthew McConaughey was in full form as he has been for the past two years. There are a few scenes in this movie that really struck a chord with me emotionally and that was all on MM. Michael Caine continues to be sad Michael Caine and that’s okay because the man is a true legend and makes my eyes water every time he is sad. The voice acting from Bill Irwin, who voices the robot TARS, was a wonderful addition to the cast and might have been my favorite character. The robots were awesome by the way. At first I thought they were too weird but then I really got into the functionality of them. The action and space sequences were gorgeous to watch in 70mm. It made the effort to see this is IMAX all worth while. Also, Mackenzie Foy can act. That girl is going to be big if she continues acting.

Overall the film just wasn’t up to what I thought it was going to be. As far as space movies go, I enjoyed Sunshine and Solaris much more but there were definitely some great reasons to see the film. The camera work, the acting, the practical effects mixed in with CGI, all made this a film to see. It just happened to be a mess in the story telling department that may get better with a clearer viewing but I’m not holding my breath. Nolan gets points for doing it in film though. I’ll give him added points for that.

3/5

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

What a show. I don’t particularly know what the show meant or if I was 100% into it, but what a goddamn show.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the film is shot in a way that looks like one long take. You can tell where the edits are, but the film chugs on like an engine through the entire run time. It didn’t come off gimmicky. It came off glorious. The fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was able to keep every single frame of this movie gorgeous as shit while still maintaining the longness of the shot is a true thing to watch. The film also had this rhythmic drum fill that permeated the entire film from start to finish. It was like a heartbeat, getting faster and louder as scenes unfold into chaos. It was such an opposite kind of feeling from the rest of Iñárritu’s work that it almost made me forget who made the film. His previous movies are all filled with depressing situations and heartbreaking performances. I laughed out loud in this film. I was having a fucking ball. The whole cast pretty much had be heaving. Well, maybe not Emma Stone’s character, but she was still sassy enough to give me a chuckle.

The acting is top notch. We’re going to see at least two major award nominations from this film. Keaton is the star. He is in nearly every scene and completely solidified himself as “back in form”. The film goes into a meta sense as I realized just how alike Keaton and his on screen character Riggan were. Both are actors who portrayed superheros in the 80s and have been away from the spotlight for some time. Both are trying to make a comeback and in the case for Keaton, he does, in a big way. The guy just hit it out of the park. Edward Norton steals every scene he is in. It reminds me a little of when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder because he was so goddamn funny. You could make the case for Melissa McCarthy as well but I don’t find her funny. Norton is going to complete that triangle. His character of Mike is so out of his mind that it can only be achieved by Norton, who is himself a lot like his on screen character. He was hysterical and also hammered in the scene chewing jobs just as well. Everybody else was fitting for their role. Emma Stone could sneak in the Oscars but honestly I felt her performance to be a bit overdone. Galafianakis was on point as always. I’ve considered him to be one of the best underrated actors for a while now. Watts finishes the top of the line up as she always does. She’s a professional and it shows.

The only reason I didn’t shower this film with praise is because there are so many subtleties in this film that I just can’t grasp them all right now. The ending left my head spinning a bit and there was a lot of dialogue I missed the meaning of because the film was rolling by my face at a million miles an hour. Will this affect my rating? Not really. It just makes this review a little shorter than usual.

See this film. It’s something that you’ll be thinking of for a long time and itching for a second viewing. I may have to see this again before it leaves theaters.

4.5/5

Film Review : Fury (2014)

IMDB Score(Presently) – 8.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 79%

Directed By – David Ayer
Starring – Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michale Pena, Jon Bernthal, Anamaria Marinca, Anamaria Marinca, and Jason Isaacs

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

Writer/Director David Ayer has had an interesting career so far. We have seen his brilliant times with the writing of Training Day and shit, even U-571. We’ve also seen his horrible times with Sabotage, Harsh Times, and the absolutely atrocious SWAT. I’ll never forget a character in SWAT, before blowing his brains out, looking toward Samuel L. Jackson and delivering this gem of a one liner…”Goddammit Sarge!” If you’ve seen the film you know what I mean. I can’t look at Josh Charles the same anymore. Ayer is obviously talented but I feel like he slips into a bad crime novelist whose books frequent airports from time to time. Training Day was obviously amazing, but besides End of Watch, his work has been mediocre at best recently. Fury, was ultimately a frustrating film with some moments of brilliance. The likes of a full length film with no glaring problems might be behind Ayer for now.

There hasn’t been a film dedicated to tank crews that I can remember. You see the air force, ground troops, hell, even fighter pilots highlighted in films, yet until now nobody has highlighted the work that tank crews did during WW2. For the most part, it was almost a death sentence. Like flamethrowers in Japan, a tank is like a huge target for enemy fire. You’re not going to last long unless you take the tank out FIRST. US tanks were also poorly made compared to superior German Tiger tanks. US tanks were slower and would routinely be taken out by enemy artillery. In short, tankers didn’t live long. This crew has though. Brad Pitt and company have been together for years and when a newcomer (Lerman) comes along, he needs to be broken in fast or else he’ll risk the lives of the entire crew. We’ve seen this before with Ayer. A newbie comes into the world of hardened veterans and has to see the horrors of the job before he can become one of them. Honestly, my interest in this film wasn’t the story. I’m a big WW2 fan and the concept of a film dedicated to tank crews scratched my history itch.

I had problems with the film. For one, the music in the film was just overbearing. The film was intense enough. I didn’t need a blaring orchestra to remind me that I should be in suspense. Somehow, the death and firebombs going off on the screen did it for me. It was distracting. I also had a problem with a few scenes that not only took the pace of the film and brought it to a grounding halt, but it also didn’t make a lick of sense. The biggest offender of this was the breakfast scene with the German girls. The only thing I liked about this was the performance of Shia LaBeouf but we’ll get to more of that soon. Jon Bernthal tries WAY too hard to be a crazy person and the film decided that rape didn’t exist in War and that every German girl who was being FORCED to cook and serve these troops would also sleep with them. It was insulting. The film had some of the most violent scenes in a war movie since Saving Private Ryan but they had to sprinkle glitter over these men when they interacted with women. It was just odd. The whole scene with the younger girl and Lerman was just a set up to what happened after they exited the house. It was cheap and amateur. The final scene was also completely nonsensical and dragged out. A particular scene, after the battle, after literally hundreds of people died, was laugh out loud bad. Those of you who have seen it will know what I’m talking about.

So, what was good? Well, the sound design was top notch. I expect nominations for that team because each round and explosion sounded like the real thing. There were two tank battle scenes that REALLY stood out thanks to amazing sound design and very intense interior shots of the tank crew in action from inside the tank. I was on the edge of my seat for these. The camerawork was also overall pretty great. The opening scene looked like a leftover scene from War Horse. Yes David Ayer, I just compared you to Spielberg. You can relish in that. The acting was also top notch from Pitt and LaBeouf, specifically Shit (I’m leaving this typo in because Shia would find it funny). These are the roles that the kid needs to be doing. He needs to take this crazy persona of his and stick it into his acting. He was a marvel in this film, showing an unbelievable amount of range. His character, Bible, was a God loving Christian outside of the tank, and a ruthless gunner inside. LaBeouf handled it wonderfully. I was very impressed. Pitt was also very solid as the leader although he really shined when interacting with LaBouf and Lerman. The rest held their own with Lerman giving a good performance and Pena and Bernthal just kid of slogging through.

The film was worth a ticket. It was a bleak look into war that didn’t stop when things got too hectic, unless German lasses were involved. There were some intense scenes and a whole storyline that was devoted to tank crews but there were some serious flaws in the logic behind some of the scenes in the film. It also serves as proof that Shia LaBeouf is still a talented actor when given the right role.

3/5