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Fury




Fury (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

10/23/14
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 Fury (R)

Brad Pitt would like an Oscar please and dons his Inglourious Basterds costume to do it in Fury, a long but relatively watchable World War II movie.
OK, technically, as a producer on 12 Years A Slave, Pitt has an Oscar, but I strongly suspect that Fury is all about getting an acting Oscar so he can solidify his place in the “serious actor” pantheon. 
And there’s nothing grimmer or more serious than April 1945 in Germany. Even though the war is nearly over and the fighting is moving ever closer to Berlin, the Allied army is still engaging the enemy in daily, deadly battles. It was during such a battle, we assume, the tank labeled “Fury” lost one of its crew members. When its commander Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) and his crew get to the rally point to resupply, he unloads the body of the dead soldier and finds himself saddled with a new driver/gunner, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), who has been trained as a clerk. Though not well-prepared emotionally or skill-wise for the job, baby-faced Norman joins the crew with Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña) and Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal). At first, he’s a bust — failing to shoot an ambush party he saw hiding by the road because they were just kids and fumbling as he attempts to reload his gun. Collier approaches Norman’s reluctance at soldiering with a reminder that his job is to kill Nazis, just as their job is to kill him, and then demonstrates it by making him kill a captive Nazi soldier. 
And, sure, Norman’s pretty traumatized after that, but then Collier helps to hook him up with a warm meal and a nice girl when the tanks roll through a German town. So, it evens out? Or maybe Norman’s just going to be pretty messed up when he gets back home.
The soldiers don’t get a lot of time to dwell on their psychological wounds, though, because soon Collier and a few other tanks are sent to hold a crossroads that is key to keeping the Allied army supply lines operating and the army pushing forward. Though all the tanks are manned by battled-hardened pros — including a sergeant played by Jim Parrack (Hoyt of True Blood fame), who seems like “World War II army guy” is probably his default setting — one by one they get picked off until only Fury is left to hold the crossroads.
So, in this crew of soldiers, we have the religious guy — the guy nicknamed “Bible,” of course — who constantly asks people if they’re saved, the guy who might be a psychopath (that would be Bernthal’s Travis), your requisite minority (Garcia, who is, I believe, introduced by speaking Spanish and then having Collier shout at him that he needs to speak American or find himself a tank that speaks Mexican), the larger than life leader (Collier isn’t just fearless and not afraid of killing but he speaks German, thus is intelligent) and, of course, the greenie who serves as the audience surrogate by constantly having things explained to him. If there were a Bisquick of war movies, it would be this approximate blend of characters with the added element of jamming them into some small space where you could feel both the tension of war and get scenes of the men’s personalities bumping against each other. This familiarity of the structure and characters of Fury isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does, occasionally, highlight the sense that the actors are playing World War II, the way kids of my generation played Star Wars or Red Dawn. I sorta expected some of the scenes of intra-tank-crew turmoil or discussions of Nazi killin’ to end with a hearty “Wolverines!”
The movie’s working principle, which Collier states at some point, is more or less that even though the war will end soon, a whole lot of people are going to die before that happens. At several points, characters wonder to each other “Why won’t the Germans just give up?” Their defeat is certain, but because they continue to fight and kill and die Allied soldiers must fight and kill and die. Norman wants to keep his conscience clean, he says at one point, but the implication is that, even at the end of the war, the need for killing, for the kind of behavior that weighs on one’s conscience, hasn’t abated. It’s a state of affairs that wearies the soldiers in an interesting way. The murkiness of this situation is what the movie has to offer. “Murkiness and death at the end of the war” — that would be my TV grid descriptor for what this movie is about.
The movie is moderately successful at presenting its examination of this idea. Pitt is actually quite good — better than you might expect if you just saw clips of some of his hammier moments. The rest of the crew falls somewhere down the acting scale that runs from total processed cheese to nuanced, multi-layered character. So let’s say Pitt is at the 75-percent mark, getting human emotion and response down most of the time. Lerman is maybe the next guy in line, hovering right in the middle, spending most of the movie letting the same shocked expression do all the work but occasionally having moments of something else. Then there are Peña and LaBeouf, who get one character trait apiece (speaks Spanish, likes religion) and very few moments to explore a deeper humanity. And then, well into cheesetown, there’s Bernthal and his crazy eyes. I’m not saying these characters don’t more or less work in the moment, but I did finding myself wish the actors got more to do.
For all its unoriginality and lack of nuance, Fury is still engrossing — pancakes made from a boxed mix can still be tasty. Even though we know how the war ends, there is enough drama in these episodes of the fighting and these snapshots of the men who fought it to carry a story and hold your attention. It probably says more about our fascination with the war, that war specifically, than it says about the actual war itself but if you thought “cool, World War II movie” when you heard about it (and you don’t consider yourself squeamish), it’s probably going to be worth the price of admission for you. B
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images and language throughout. Written and directed by David Ayer, Fury is two hours and 15 minutes long and distributed by Columbia Pictures. 
 





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