Brad Pitt stars as a craggy US army tank commander leading his five-man crew on a suicidal mission in the closing stages of World War Two in a ferociously brutal action drama that combines gritty realism with hard-boiled sentimentality.

With the Allies making their final push into Germany, Pitt has to knock Logan Lerman’s callow young recruit into shape when he joins his hard-bitten Sherman tank veterans Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal.

Writer-director David Ayer is unflinching in his depiction of the green youngster’s baptism of fire into the horrors of war, conveying the sudden savagery of ambushes and firefights, as well as the sweaty claustrophobia of the tank and its desperate vulnerability.

But the realism of the battle scenes unfortunately goes hand in hand with typical war-movie machismo and the men’s final showdown is pure Hollywood fantasy.