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Columbia Pictures with their version of World War Two in Fury has Brad Pitt with a Platoon type tank unit that argues, fights, and has a love/hate relationship with each member; alternatively bullying and connecting with one another. Written and directed by David Ayers (Sabotage, Street Kings) the film is set in April 1945 and follows the tank crew of the Fury as they advance deep into Nazi Germany. The premise of the movie deals with the fact that the German tanks were far superior to the Allies’ machinery.
A lot of effort was made by Ayers to get the details right about the tanks, being inside and what the crew would do and say in given situations. Fury works hard to be technically correct and visually the film looks spectacular. Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov (who has worked with Ayers before on End of Watch) uses lighting most impressively and the overall look of the movie is an almost sepia-tone color-muted appearance.
The film also sounds brilliant, the battle noises, sounds of empty cartridges hitting the bottom of the tank’s floor, etc are spot on. Everything sounds as one would expect. Brad Pitt, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman all carry their performances impressively and and come across as real, albeit damaged, characters. Shia LaBeouf has a real “hit and miss” approach to playing his religious role. Often it is difficult to understand what he is saying. As “Bible” Swan when the actor is not quoting scripture, he mumbles as if his mustache is deflecting his dialogue.
Leaving LaBeouf’s sporadic acting abilities aside, it has to be pointed out that the sum of all these parts does not make Fury a great film. Similar to Platoon, the characters are not remotely likeable and the decision to give the World War Two tank crew a Vietnam based interaction between the obviously mentally damaged Brad Pitt and his underlings hurts the credibility of the entire effort. It should be pointed out that this was in no way the fault of the actors, with the possible exception of Shia, rather the script and the writer’s ideology were the culprits here.
Ayers’ has gone on record stating that he believes that WWII was not the “clean war” depicted by fiction in the past. However, the bickering and squabbling going on inside, and outside, the tank feels more like a fixture of the Vietnam war where soldiers were, towards the end of that conflict, tired of fighting battles with inexperienced leaders and a paranoia involving the inability of spotting the “bad guys.”
Perhaps a little backstory could have explained the distress that was such an underlying factor with each unlikeable character. The writer/director has said that he wanted to get everything technically right and to avoid having Fury be a “xerox” of every other war film, but sadly he has failed on several levels.
Fans of war movies, and devotees of military history, will immediately see the allegory of The Alamo with Wardaddy’s last stand against what appears to be a battalion of S.S. reinforcements that he and his crew take on at a crossroads. This is the moment the film has headed to from the very start and the results are not much different for these replicators of the zealous Texans in 1836.
Another “cliche” was the death of the “fresh young” German fraulein who falls for the young rookie Logan. The event, which happens just after one of the more difficult parts of the film to watch, felt contrived; just as the instant death, via sniper, of a local who points out where the Nazis are felt like a cliche ordered on cue. So too were the bodies lining the roads that the tank crew travel in Fury.
Many of the “atrocities” attributed to the Nazi army and the S.S. seems also to be lifted from the Vietcong practice of killing “traitors” to the cause. It was well known that in that unpopular war entire villages were wiped out with the North Vietnamese publicizing why. The film could have its facts right about killing and hanging the bodies of “cowards” beside the road, it just does not “feel” right. Certainly the Nazi’s made a determined effort to eradicate Jews and homosexuals or any other individuals off the face of the earth who did not fit their Aryan fixation, but this bit used in the film felt like an anachronism.
Apart from the fact that Ayers felt the need to place 1960’s values in a film set in 1945, he created characters that are impossible to like. Wardaddy, the man whose men will follow him to the devil’s tail, apparently, forces his new recruit to shoot an S.S. officer in the back. Afterward the Sgt. stares moodily at the ground which is supposed to make the audience feel something about his vile act. The scene, like the dinner scene before the fraulein dies, is uncomfortable and detestable.
It is difficult to believe that any of these men are friends and comrades in arms and this more than anything else lets Fury down. This lack of audience connection with the protagonists hurts the movie more than the Platoon type theme attached to a World War Two tank crew run by Brad Pitt. Fans of war films will enjoy the action and the tank battles, there is one scene between three U.S. tanks and a German Tiger that is quite edge of the chair viewing, but the rest of the film falls a little flat, despite the cinematography looking brilliant. Fury opens October 17 in cinemas nationwide. Prepare to like the film, but not to love it.
By Michael Smith
Brenden Palms Casino