Film Review: Fury

*Warning: Mild spoilers

Fury begins in the final acts of WWII, April of 1945. We are instantly put in the environment of blood, dirt, and death. The Fury tank rolls into camp after losing one of their own, carting a dead brother with them inside their hot, iron home. We can feel the tension and anger these men feel as they get ready to go back out to the front of battle. Once parked, the men consisting of Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, and Jon Bernthal, crawl out to see an SS officer being carted through the camp for interrogation. The hate for the Germans comes through Pitt’s anger as he attempts to end the man’s life right then and there. Instantly, the intent to murdering Germans is lowered to the much more “important mission” to kill all of the SS officers.

This is where we meet Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a typist who has been upgraded to tank gunman. But it is with this quick catalyst, the audience is forced to focus on Norman’s ineptitude rather than Brad Pitt’s performance. Pitt plays Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, a war torn commander who sounds like his mouth is full of marbles most of the time and also doesn’t quite live up to the word “commander” as he loses control of his men every so often.

One scene that sticks out in my mind is when the group makes it to a small German village. Don and Norman recon a nearby home and force themselves in only to the turn the tide and nicely ask the ladies of the home to make them breakfast. I’m sure the only reason for this scene is to show the humanity in war. But then it is rudely interrupted by the rough men of Don’s group the war has produced. They are rude and disgusting creating a polarizing look on screen which could have been taken straight from a “how to write an important scene” book. Don can’t seem to get control of the room unless he just doesn’t care. I can’t understand why this scene turned out the way it did. What was it trying to prove?

That being said, with the stereotype of the rough American warriors at play, it is only within these five minutes we get insight into what these men have been through. Boyd or “Bible” played by LaBeouf, sheds a tear or two as they recount their most trying war days. This is the only time we get individual personalities from these characters. Otherwise, they are written off in their supporting roles more as a unit of people instead of individual stories.

At the end of this scene, Don finally creates a violent outburst that silences the men only to have the whistle blown just at the nick of time to change the direction of the film just like a predictable formula. No scene stays too long or too short. The whole film is cut together as predictably as a romantic comedy where we know the next step before it even happens.

There is another instance in the film where the filmmakers really flex their creativity with an epic tank battle–the scene that probably sold the film initially. There are three tanks versus one German anti-tank, and you can only imagine what is going to happen here. We spent very little to no time developing the characters in the other two tanks featured with sparse close ups or personal stories, so when it came down to the Germans picking off the Americans, who do you think is the last man standing? I’ll give you a hint: the tank the movie is named after. What a stretch, huh?

The film had nothing special to bring to the screen that hasn’t already been done by every other WWII epic. The only difference was the tanks. But with Pitt trying to emulate Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan and Shia LeBouef acting as Berry Pepper from the same film quoting Bible verses and saying grace every chance he gets, it just feels like a retelling of the same old story. Not to mention the connection between Norman and the mousy Upham also from Ryan.

In a war that killed millions upon millions of people, I would have hoped that this was a true story. A story where Norman, scared of firearms and killing rises to the challenge of defeating the SS German army becoming the underdog hero just before the war ends. But alas, this was not the case. There must be hundreds if not thousands of stories the filmmakers could have based this premise on, but instead they decided to take liberties with fiction and melding bits and pieces of accounts bringing more distance between the characters and the audience. It was just another WWII movie with no personal connection to the war.

Brad Pitt has done everything he can in the last several years to make himself the American hero. He doesn’t take villain roles and must be seen as the voice of reason. This was one of the main reasons I didn’t like 12 Years a Slave. I felt he cheapened the whole film by being the white man who condemns slavery, saying the few lines that are supposed to make the audience think and cement what the film’s message. In Fury, it’s no different. In a moment of forced introspection, he says, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” Again, Pitt is there to make sure the audience gets the message of the film not so subtly.

What happened to that adage of “show, don’t tell?” Once again, we are supposed to see Pitt as the good guy, the guy who can murder SS agents and feel good about it. But not so good that we don’t see him break down here and there in private–I guess that was for us to see he was human after all and not just a Nazi killing machine. If you want that, check out Inglorious Basterds.

All in all, this was a film that was mis-represented. I felt like this was an action-film set in a war genre instead of a war drama released in prime Oscar time. I would have liked to have been more connected with these men but also be able to share in their plight as actual human beings. For all I know, this is a complete fabrication put on the screen solely for our entertainment rather than awareness.

2 out of 5 stars

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