Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Fury of "Fury"


FJ's sum-up: gritty, respectful, uncompromising

When done right, I love me a good film that pulls its audience into a world controlled by claustrophobia. It seems like a cinema trend right now, more coming out than normal, and some films pull it off with restraint, finesse, and often terror. The most recent I saw was "10 Cloverfield Lane", contained a young woman, a young man, and an ominous land owner, all trapped in a bunker because the world around them is (possibly) at war. "Fury" is another of these, and they don't come much better.

It is the 1945, Germany. The Nazis nearly defeated, Hitler has ordered all Germans to come out and fight for their country. Meanwhile the Nazis haven't surrendered yet, and still have no shortage of fire power, artillery, ground troops, and most ominous in this film, tanks. With their prestigious German engineering, it's announced at the beginning of the film these are superior in all ways to anything the Americans can dish out, but the fight is on the Americans' side so they must press forward. Enter Sargeant Don "War Daddy" Collier (Brad Pitt), commander of a Sherman tank with a five-man crew, as they and other battalions make their final deadly push to take Europe back, plunging themselves behind heavily-guarded enemy lines. Collier doesn't take crap from anyone, no patience to spare for someone not doing their job, even if that's a terrified peaceful young little clerk who types 60 words per minute, and was suddenly drafted into the army, shoved into the bowels of Fury, Collier's tank, in the spot where their last turret man sat when he was killed. Utterly inexperienced and terrified through and through, Norman can't focus on the war or their goals, let alone imagine killing a person. When he gets his chance, his hesitance instead allows the enemy to kill men from a neighboring squadron, a thing which sets Collier off on him as if he himself were a Nazi. Norman's character also turns this film into an effective coming-of-age picture, the awful wakeup call known as war that most of us can be grateful we'll never have to experience. (I have three little boys now, and thinking on all this, I can say with the deepest thankfulness and even tears that the draft is currently shut down.)


As Collier comes to put it: "This is my home.", and he means it too. "Best job I ever had." he says, patting the inner lining of his Fury's belly. This is a similar but in many ways different experience from the film's counterpart "Saving Private Ryan", a story never been told by cinema, the unnerving vantage point of the battle through the tiny peep holes within the tank (though, if you thought you'd never see another war film as horrifically realistic as that World War II epic, see this film and stand corrected.) The battle sequences seem sometimes much more intimate than in Private Ryan thanks to the tight quarters within that seemingly small yet hearty vehicle (and by comparison, that much more believable with so many practical effects rather than CG recreations). The film also depicts how easy it could be for soldiers to pit themselves against one another when having to live and work together so closely, even when all around them the enemy may strike without warning. For Fury's squad you've got Shia LaBeouf as Bible (in a career-high performance by a landslide, refreshing as hell), Michael Peña as Gordo, Jon Bernthal as Coon-Ass, and young Logan Lerman as Norman (whose nickname I'll let the film reveal to you). One could reasonably compare this film to Wolfgang Petersen's submarine epic "Das Boot", except in this film the soldiers aren't encased by water but rather by the constant threat of enemy fire. In this way, the tank acts both as a room with no leg space but also as a haven. Fury is their lifeboat, and within it, you the viewer can also feel a sense of security, especially when you see what kind of cajones it's really got when it lets loose.

One of the most memorable lines in the film are delivered by Pitt: "See that smoke? That's an entire city burning. This war is gonna end, soon. But before it does, a whole lot of people are gonna die." Know that this is not a historical film, but essentially it is; it portrays events that happened exactly as we see them on the screen. This is the first film of David Ayer's I've seen and from me he gets full marks for it. He's currently wrapping the Batman v Superman follow-up, "Suicide Squad". I'm utterly uninterested -- Ayer, how about you do give us more of this and none of that. 4 stars. Running time: 134 minutes.

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