Friday, October 24, 2014
A number of big-name movie stars have been involved in World War II movie projects this year. Earlier in 2014 we had George Clooney in THE MONUMENTS MEN, and coming soon will be UNBROKEN, a film directed by Angelina Jolie. Playing in theaters right now is FURY, starring Brad Pitt and written & directed by David Ayer.
FURY is the name given to an American Sherman tank by its crew. That crew is introduced to us during April 1945, as Allied forces drive through Germany and the Nazi regime is in its death throes. The resistance that is left is still fanatical enough to cause U.S. soldiers major trouble, and the film follows the tank crew through such incidents as a showdown with a German Tiger tank and a standoff against a battalion of Waffen-SS troops.
If you are looking for a war movie with mud, blood, and guts, FURY is right up your alley. This movie earns its R rating, violence-wise and language-wise. It's not a movie for kids--and there may even be some adults turned off by it. As a matter of fact, during the screening I attended, a group of viewers left after a scene showing U.S. troops in a particularly bad light.
You've no doubt figured out by now that FURY is not an old-fashioned heroic WWII tale. But in some ways, FURY re-uses some old war movie standards. The characters of the tank crew are pretty basic for this type of picture--hardened tank crew leader (Brad Pitt), devout Christian (Shia LeBeouf), annoying goofball (Jon Bernthal), and the ethnic member of the group (Michael Pena). The "new guy" character is played by Logan Lerman. This character fulfills the "green rookie" stereotype--the guy is in fact so green, he's never seen combat, or been inside of a tank before. I thought that this situation was a bit contrived--even if there were troop shortages, would the Army really send a guy who's never fired a gun in anger or had no tank training whatsoever to fill in on a tank crew? (If anyone out there has any information on whether things like this did occur in WWII, please leave a note in the comments section.)
Logan Lerman looks a lot like the actor who played the new guy in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.....and all throughout FURY I kept thinking back to Spielberg's WWII blockbuster. Both movies have a lot of similarities, although FURY is much more action-oriented.
It is those action scenes which make up the film's highlights. The Sherman-Tiger battle is a standout piece of work from Ayer and his production team. (The only surviving operational Tiger I tank was used during filming.) The climax is very impressive as well...but one thing during the battle scenes kind of distracted me. The tracer bullets are colored red and green, and they constantly kept reminding me of the laser blasts in STAR WARS.
There is one major non-combat sequence, and it involves the Pitt and Lerman characters encountering two German women after the capture of a town. The sequence brings the story to a screeching halt, and it goes on far too long. Ayer may have wanted to give the audience a breather, or make some sort of a statement, but the whole sequence seems almost from a different movie altogether.
FURY is a well-made production, with some intense combat action, but I wouldn't say it was one of the greatest war films ever, or even one of the greatest WWII films ever. If you've seen plenty of war movies in your time (like me), you'll be reminded of a lot of other films. The characters of the tank crew do not especially stand out in any way--and they're also not very likable either. (Despite the fact that it is intimated that this is a crack tank crew, these guys sure do argue and scream at each other a lot.) I would still recommend FURY for anyone who is a WWII buff, just for the Shermans vs. Tiger scene alone.