I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Fury

tn_furyFURY is an intense, well-made WWII movie. It doesn’t feel like just another forgettable same ol’ same ol’ type of war picture. For one thing, the focus on the crew of one tank makes for some unique and thrilling combat scenes. One battle scene in particular really shows the strategy of tank on tank action. They’re like pirate ship battles waged from inside vans. Or like giant turtles trying to outmaneuver each other. Not all battles are just about who has the most guns. And filming inside real tanks really adds to the realistic feel I think. It’s pretty damn cool.

Also it’s a more violent movie than most, or at least more effectively violent. Always good to hear somebody in the back of the theater loudly gasp right at the beginning of a movie. I guess somebody thought this was gonna be about nice, polite combat.

But I think FURY is signifying something too, and I’m still processing what I think about that. Writer/director David Ayer last did the really enjoyable Schwarzenegger movie SABOTAGE, which was a more fun and pulpy version of his usual topic, the Burnt Out Cops That Cross the Line (END OF WATCH, HARSH TIMES, STREET KINGS, TRAINING DAY). And this is kinda like the soldier version of that.

It seems to be saying that even a “good war” is barbaric business, and that even The Greatest Generation were a bunch of dicks. In contrast to almost any other WWII movie we don’t see any of the Nazi war crimes, I don’t think we even hear about them. We just see Germans being soldiers, usually outnumbered and on the losing end of a fight. We see them captured, terrorized and executed. We even see one offering a crucial, unexplained act of mercy to an American. And we see German citizens that have been hung in the streets for not joining the war. In other words, alot of these bad guys we’re seeing get blown to bits didn’t have much of a choice.

mp_furyThe Americans are not painted as positively as they usually are in movies about this particular conflict, they’re more of the Vietnam War movie type. The crew’s brand new gun assistant (Ladies Love Logan Lerman) is in a similar boat as some of the Germans. He’s a secretary thrown into combat. He’s never seen the inside of a tank before, he’s never killed anybody and he doesn’t want to. When his hesitation to shoot a child gets another tank blown up, Sergeant Brad Pitt drags him out, slaps him around, yells at him and forces him to shoot a captured German soldier in the back. Everybody else stands around unimpressed, like they’ve seen this a thousand times.

Didn’t know you like to get wet, dog. King Kong ain’t got shit on Brad Pitt.

The other crew members do their best to bully, torment and threaten the kid, and try to guilt him for not having suffered through as many horrors as they have so far. They’re such yahoos they come across like post-apocalypse punks or Texas Chain Saw family members. In fact the big tour-de-force character scene strangely reminded me of the classic TEXAS CHAIN SAW dinner scene. Two German women sit terrified at their own table forced to endure a hateful meal while the soldiers fight over one of the girls.

Pitt sort of becomes the good guy in this scene, protecting the girl (whose boldly colored dress makes her pop off of the mostly grey and faded green screen like she’s from a different world). But earlier he was the one who barged into this woman’s apartment and decided that the kid would hook up with her cousin, who he found hidden under the bed.

The implication is that they worry the girl is too pretty for these American pillagers not to try to rape her. Which turns out to be true. They’re marching around the village trying on people’s clothes, taking people’s food, grabbing terrified women like they’re auditioning to be in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. They walk on the rubble and joke around, showing nothing close to a sign of sympathy for the innocent conquered locals.

It’s grim and harsh but it’s not all rubbing your nose in the shit. There are some laughs, some scenes of bonding, some humanity. A little bit. I really like the scene where they’re on top of the tank talking about religion, they’re all kinda teasing LaBeouf about his concepts of who will and won’t go to Heaven. They really have a chemistry there like they’ve been together a long time and they’ve had this conversation before but they’re always happy to do it again because it amuses them.

It’s kinda weird seeing Pitt killing Nazis again not that long after INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, where he had such a great character and colorful performance. There are definitely shades of Aldo Raine here, he’s going for a similar intense manliness, but he’s a little more normal I guess. And there’s no rule that says you’re only allowed to do one WWII movie. It used to be an actor could do a dozen war movies or westerns without doing different accents or anything and it was fine.

I guess the big difference between the characters is this guy is more like a mean dad or coach. He can be a total asshole but he’s doing it – or at least believes he’s doing it, or maybe just wants you to believe he’s doing it – out of tough love. Shortly after slapping the kid around and forcing him to commit a war crime he tells him to make sure to get something to eat before they leave. Don’t worry son, I’m looking out for you.

Also his hair is shorter on the sides, almost bald, that’s pretty different.

Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead season 1 and 2, WOLF OF WALL STREET) puts in another movie-stealing performance, though I wish he got a chance to do a little more of the scenes where he does something other than menace people and be a prick. Same goes for Michael Pena, although he gets to be a little funnier at least. LaBeouf’s character is probly the most complicated because he’s always trying to be the righteous Christian member of the team but then he has no objections to their terrorizing those German cousins.

LaBeouf does a good job, but I feel bad that he thought he had to yank out a tooth for that. I only noticed it in one or two shots, and it could’ve easily been faked. Also it wouldn’t make much difference if he just had all his teeth in those shots. I don’t see missing-a-tooth as an important character trait there. I can only hope that feeling the empty space with his tongue helped him get into character and take the performance to the next level.

I have to admit I’m not much of a Lerman-maniac. I don’t like how we always gotta have these kinda bland everyboy characters as an audience surrogate. I guess the idea is that it’s okay to have a bunch of interesting crazy guys on screen as long as the main character is a younger guy that’s kinda weak and lacking in personality. To be honest I thought he was the same kid from JACK THE GIANT SLAYER and/or WAR HORSE. I don’t know the difference between these guys.

Imagine if in RESERVOIR DOGS there was a wimpy young kid who was the new guy in the gang being shown the ropes. Just to make sure we as the audience have an entry into that world. That wouldn’t be as good in my opinion.

Okay, admittedly it has more of a purpose in this one. He’s the innocent who tries to make it through war without his soul getting soiled. One minute he’s a harmless typist, the next his morals are responsible for one of his fellow Americans being on fire shooting himself in the head. I get it.

It’s a rough journey to take, but a good one. If you like a good war movie this one stands out, definitely worth your time. Pretty cool theme song too:

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 at 1:27 pm and is filed under Reviews, War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

23 Responses to “Fury”

  1. I was all pumped and ready to see JOHN WICK today. Now I’m conflicted. Choices, choices. You’re tearing me apart, Vern!

  2. They’re different types of movies. I’d say JOHN WICK is the more perfect version of its type of movie. But both are worth checking out.

  3. I really didn’t like this movie, and I feel bad because almost everyone else is convinced of its greatness. I just found it to be an absolute slog, two and a half hours of monotonous misery without any break or sense of hope. Really it comes down to Ayer deciding that every single man in that tank had to be a massive asshole, which robs you of the chance to really connect and empathize with the men in the tank.

    Glad you liked it, though, Vern.

  4. Choosing between John Wick and Fury is tough. They both do what they say they’re going to do. John Wick seems to know its using every action movie cliche’ but never winks at you knowingly about it. Fury has fewer of those cliche’s. I don’t know, I liked both of them. Probably Fury if I had to choose to see one in the theater.

    Brendan, I think the guys in the tank being assholes is the point. They’ve been in there for almost, or exactly, 3 years by that point. They’ve seen shit, man. Victims become the victimizers and all that.

  5. Vern, it’s high time you saw END OF WATCH. Instant classic in my opinion.

  6. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 4th, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Did anybody else think one of the other tank commanders in Pitt’s team was Randy Couture? It seemed to fit, the guy only had one or two lines and basically just had to look tough for a while before getting his head blown off. I was pretty disappointed when I looked it up afterwards and it turned out to be this guy instead: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5244059/?ref_=tt_cl_t8

  7. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 4th, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    As for the movie, I liked it a lot and it’s stayed with me since watching it over a week ago, which rarely happens for me these days. But I did think it was trying too hard to be tragic and dramatic in certain places. Sometimes it worked and some of the events were pretty haunting, but sometimes it made things way too predictable and even laughable. For example, what happens after the dinner scene I saw coming a mile away, just because that was the obvious strategy the film was so clearly following. War is hell, everyone dies, there is no hope etc.

  8. I liked this. Somebody online described it best as being a movie made for people who are fans of WW2 movies. I appreciate Ayer trying to replicate these tough guy melodramas that he obviously grew up with, embracing those cliches.

    I think what Vern is grabbing for but not sure what it is, FURY reminded me alot of Sam Fuller’s classic THE BIG RED ONE. I would be surprised if Ayer wasn’t influenced by that. That view of war, ideology is irrelevant in a meatgrinder that is war. You die or you make somebody else die.

    Now I will disagree with alot of the criticisms about that 3rd act, where people say it was “heroic.” In a traditional WW2 film, sure it would be construed as one. (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, anybody?) But that’s not the interpretation I got at all. I think it was more that Pitt and his crew have become creatures of war. They’re so intuned with the violence. When this war ends, what is Pitt going to do back home? Work at a factory? Marry and kids kids in a small apartment? My impression was that he stayed to fight because not doing so would be against his nature.

    Plus that final shot…(SPOILER) that busted tank full of Pitt’s dead crew, surrounded by dozens upon dozens of dead Germans. Its a graveyard, with that tank as a “tomb” in the middle. And what do the U.S. troops do when they’re on the scene? They walk on by, not really giving all this carnage a second thought. Yes what Pitt’s crew did was heroic and brave, but…they’re also fucking dead. And nobody really seems to care. Onwards to the next engagement. (SPOILER)

    Ayer is a solid pick for SUICIDE SQUAD, if they let him embrace the heist/crime movie that SS* fits like a glove.

    *=I hope the movie gets better initials that we can use shorthand online.

  9. I’m a smidge sick of being that guy who shits on the new American-war-milieu movie that seemingly everyone else praises, so I’ll abstain from articulating here the many reasons why I think FURY is garbage. Vern posts a bunch of “why this is a pretty good movie” details and all I want to do is counter & interject after every sentence and headbutt the movie. But I’ll save that extensive, withering [whining/]criticism for when someone watches FURY with me in person.

    How or why Brad Pitt deigned to give David Ayer many hours of his performing services will remain a mystery for the ages in my mind, but apparently the majority of critics/viewers thinks this was a fair, rewarding transaction between prestigious actor and shit auteur.

    Alas, nothing shocks me any longer, not in a country that bafflingly elects the likes of Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis, Rick Scott, Tom Cotton, Renee Ellmers… jeezus, didn’t mean to turn all political here but jesus fuck my beloved nation is chaos operated by imbeciles & ignored by apathetic human-like vegetables. We don’t deserve The Greatest Generation, nor even the perverted interpretation of that Generation that apparently included American war criminals who would shoot a defenseless Nazi captive in the back while 15 fellow American troops watch & shrug.

  10. Actually Mouth I’m glad to hear you say that, because I really wondered if anybody would be offended by portraying the soldiers of WWII as such savages, but nobody else I talked to seemed to think it was even noteworthy. Like I said in the review, I’m not totally sure what I think about it. As far as a movie showing the complexity of humanity and degradation of war it’s certainly no BLACKBOOK, but I thought it was at least a novel approach to a WWII combat movie.

  11. David Ayer should do a movie in this vein about a B-17 bomber crew next, that’d be interesting.

  12. I gave my money to this one yesterday and I didn’t regret it. Nothing much to add that hasn’t been stated well enough by Vern and the big guns above (war reference right there). Good call Casey on this one benefiting from being seen on the big screen. Because it could have easily passed as a double episode of Band Of Brothers on TV.

    The wet-behind-the-ears/this-is-not-what-I-signed-up-for shit was a bit cliched, but I’ve seen it handled worse, like Michael J Fox in CASUALTIES OF WAR. You would have to assume that a young man in his early 20’s would have some sense of idealism, no matter how naive he is about the real world. I remember being an annoying self-righteous little prick at some stage in my youth. Pissed people off. You learn, you get humbled, you grow up.

    That Bernthal’s pretty good. He looks like Robert DeNiro, if DeNiro never changed his hair style and nose prosthetics from when he played young Jake LaMotta.

    Also good to see Ayer move his milieu out of South Central LA, though he just couldn’t leave Michael Pena behind, could he? Loyalty counts for something.

  13. It was indeed furious, but not quite fast enough for my tastes.

  14. The Original... Paul

    November 8th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I haven’t and probably won’t see FURY, but after my reactions to several critically-lauded art films this past couple of years, and also as the one guy who kinda agreed with you on ZERO DARK THIRTY, I get where you’re coming from, Mouth.

    I’m amazed that nobody’s had anything to say about the election results in the Politics threads yet. I’m not within several thousand miles of the US right now, and it absolutely chills me to the bone that you now have, as the guy who’s basically in charge of directing your Government’s science policies, a man who thinks that global warming is some kind of duplicitous liberal conspiracy.

  15. Saw this in London a couple of days ago and liked it a lot. It’s about time someone started working from the premise that war is ugly.

  16. pegsman, the war is ugly premise hasn’t been in hiding, has it? – PATHS OF GLORY, DEER HUNTER, APOCALYPSE, PLATOON (and other Stone’s), PRIVATE RYAN, SAVIOR (great movie), BAND OF BROTHERS, THE PACIFIC.

  17. True, Darren, but I don’t think we’ve seen American WW2 soldiers portrayed this nasty in a, let’s face it, KELLY’s HEROES type of war movie before?

  18. I guess I aligned the whole premise of FURY with the last third of SAVING MATT DAMON’S ASS [again] (sort of spoiler for possible future thread of recent rescue mission movie…care factor may vary depending on idolization of Damon.)

    The difference being Spielbergs infusion of hope and humanism amidst the horror of war, and Ayer leaning toward nihilism. But I thought both were equally brutal.

  19. The movie FURY is closest too in both tone and look, is Peckinpah’s CROSS OF IRON – one of the best non-biographical war movies ever made. But of course that’s about German soldiers, so they were allowed to be a bit meaner.

  20. I saw this last week, and left wondering… was this all a single day? As far as I can tell night only falls one time during the events of the film. That’s a seriously fucked up day.

  21. I caught a matinee of this the other day, and I liked it a lot. This is some primo macho horseshit right here. I particularly liked how everyone was a gung ho shit-talking murder machine in front of the other guys, but their humanity showed through in private. Pitt had that moment where he took a knee and let his Sarge persona drop, and Bernthal had that part where he apologized to LL for being such a dick. It makes you wonder how much of the horrors of war is just simple peer pressure.

    Surprisingly, I thought Shia was excellent. I never hated the guy but he’s been a bit of a one-trick pony. Here he was kind of the heart of the movie. He had one foot in the callous butchery of the tank crew and one foot in the idealism of LL. Where he went, the movie went with him. It was a far more effective redneck yahoo performance than the one he gave in LAWLESS, which I kind of thought was bad enough to sink the movie. His leading man days are probably behind him but I think he could grow into an interesting character actor.

    Did anyone else see this with a crowd of mostly senior citizens? I kept expecting some of them to walk out after the first couple exploding faces but they seemed to like it. Kind of heartwarming, really.

  22. I got a friend who’s in his 70s who won’t shut up about this fucking movie. He doesn’t usually go to the theater that much, but he’s seen it twice already and keeps talking about buying it when it comes out. But he also saw and somewhat enjoyed JOHN WICK, so he’s not your run of the mill senior citizen I don’t think.

  23. Speaking of Ayer, really digging the SUICIDE SQUAD cast. If they can get Oprah for Waller, that would be inspired as fuck casting.

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