Short form: War is hell. This point is repeatedly shown not told.
A bit longer: This film is every bit as brutal and intense as Black Hawk Down, but because it centers on a single tank crew, it is far more personal. WWII is drawing to a close – it's April already, meaning that there's less than a month to go – and in the words of the tank commander "It will end. Soon. But before it does, a lot more people gotta die." There are no great philosophical points made by this movie. It simply shows that war is hard, gut-wrenching, dirty work. It shows things as they're finally coming to a head at the very end of the European war, when it's down to battle-scarred American veterans grinding through fanatical German SS who are hell-bent on a suicidal last stand. There're also a fair number of views of civilians, some innocent, some not so much, caught in the cross-fire. The total effect is one of fatalism, weariness, cold competence, and determination to finish the job. There's no thought of victory parades for these men, no waving flags, no dreams of a post-war good life, no grateful nation. The war is still on, nothing else matters, and there are no thoughts past surviving the current day.
There are two film-related notes that stand out here. First, the acting is all top-knotch. Even crazy little Shia LaBeof pulls off his character as a Bible-thumping gunner with aplomb. If you want more casting details, go look them up over at Rotten Tomatoes. Secondly, war movies always seem to have a guy thrown into the middle of things who doesn't belong there. For examples, recall the reporter character in Das Boot, or the translator in Saving Private Ryan. They come off as wimpy and in the way, but I think that film-school types put them in as someone they believe that the audience can relate to. Mostly though, they just come off as Hollywood idiots plonked into situations that, in real life, would devour them within hours. In this movie though, the fish-out-of-water learns to swim, and damn fast and well. That was a welcome relief from the usual potboiler war movie character.
Hmm, let's add one more film-related note: the technical aspects and the special effects in this film are stunning. The care that went into them is a clear cut above most war movies. I won't belabor this last point, but the painstaking work put into the details is a powerful part of the movie, and has to be seen to be appreciated. If you go, pay attention to these details, it will pay dividends.
Bottom line number review: 3.5 out of 4 stars. This is a thoroughly riveting movie that drives home a simple message: War is hell.