The Tree of Life (movie)

Brad Pitt gets gritty again in 'Fury': 5 lessons from his recent work

For Brad Pitt aficionados, the initial reaction to the trailer for his upcoming World War II drama "Fury" might have been a flush of familiarity: The actor, after all, memorably played a tough-talking, Nazi-hunting lieutenant in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" just five years ago.

In addition to marking his return to the Western Front, "Fury" (out Friday) also represents the latest in a string of dark, gritty films for Pitt: Counting "Fury," six of his last eight live-action movies explicitly deal with grim themes including violence, the cost of freedom and the nature of humanity.

Over that stretch, Pitt has experienced...