Up next is David Ayer’s World War II action drama Fury. Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, and Logan Lerman, Fury is rated R for for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language.
Fury tells the story of hardened army sergeant Wardaddy (Pitt), leader of a Sherman tank and her crew as they embark on a deadly mission through Germany. After losing their assistant driver in battle, young, overwhelmed Norman Ellison (Lerman) is brought in to replace him. Outnumbered and outgunned, the crew and their tank, nicknamed Fury, attempt to cripple Nazi Germany despite the staggering obstacles that stand in their way.
7.5 out of 10
War movies are like burgers. There are the memorable, incredible burgers (think Five Guys)-Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now. Then there are the solid, quality burgers that you can buy at Stop & Shop and make on the grill- Thin Red Line, The Hurt Locker. Then there are the crap burgers you get at school- Inchon, Pearl Harbor. There are plenty of burgers, but the ones that are great, the Five Guys variety, are notable for how memorable they are. They are well-acted, full of intensity and make you sick to your stomach. Fury, as the name suggests, tries its hardest to get to that point but falls in category of a solid Stop & Shop burger , resulting in what will most likely be endless comparisons between it and Saving Private Ryan, none of which will favor David Ayer’s take on WWII.
No doubt that Fury is a very solid film, probably a little bit better than its 63 on Metacritic indicates. It is very well acted, supported by a stellar cast. Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal and Michael Pena all have really nice chemistry and mesh with each other really well, leading to some great moments. The scene where they’ve emerge victorious after an epic tank defeat, and they all say “best job I ever had” was a really nice moment, probably one of the more memorable from the movie.
Pitt is very good, displaying relentless intensity as a leader and an impressive intelligence that has obviously helped to keep him and his crew alive throughout the war. However, I feel like he was stoic to the point where I couldn’t empathize. He was a figurehead, rather than a human being. I would have liked to see more emotion, an implication that he was still human. Perhaps a flashback that showed us his life before the movie, one that showed us his family. Something that shows us that he lost something. Otherwise, all Wardaddy is is a legend, which was definitely not the intention of the film.
Shia LaBeouf was very impressive. Maybe it’s because my expectations are so low for him at this point, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. Logan Lerman is also pretty good, and the transformation his character made was pretty distinct (even if him yelling “F**k you Nazis!” was really uncharacteristic). Bernthal was also very good, though he has been typecast as the asshole of whatever group he’s in. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess. Michael Pena was a solid piece, but nothing spectacular.
The intensity of the film, when at its peak, is extraordinary. The tone is created by a combination of different things, including the acting, camera angles, and a bit of music. The camera angles focus on exemplifying the grittiness of the war, and the music only amplifies that feeling. For example, the low angle dolly shot that followed the muddy caterpillar tracks on the bottom of the tank, supported by a trudging, eerie high pitched beat defined the tone and established the conditions that this movie would have throughout. From beginning to end this tone was prevalent, peaking at the fight scenes, which were emotionally dense and gory.
Yet there were moments where this intensity fell, and fell hard. During the middle of the movie, right after a huge battle scene and an intense cold blood execution, there was scene in which Logan Lerman’s character hooks up with a random German girl. While I do feel this scene was ultimately good for the development of all the characters, it was not well executed. It was way too long, filled with unnecessary dialogue and banter that extended it well beyond its welcome. Additionally, the scene was placed in between two scenes of incredible intensity, and it really broke it up. The tension abruptly dropped and I personally lost interest. Though the intensity was still very good the rest of the movie, it never quite maintained or built upon the initial vigor, partially due to this scene.
In the end, the biggest problem I had with Fury was its inability to create that poignancy and everlasting emotional impact that other war movies have. The movie tried to explore the deeper implications of war, but its tendency to sway towards irrational situations hindered it. The last scene of the movie, which features the five man crew taking on at least 300 German soldiers with more firepower, was a scene created entirely for its theatrical value. I didn’t believe it for a second. The characters, as I mentioned earlier, bordered on being entirely unrelatable (as I said, I wish we had seen more of Wardaddy prior to the war or something), which furthered the surrealism of the last scene. This movie did not leave the same deep, symbolic message that Apocalypse Now, which still haunts me to this day. Saving Private Ryan still plasters images of the Normandy beach on D-Day in my head. Fury just doesn’t get to that point.
I guess it’s kind of harsh of me to criticize this film for not being able to live up to some of the greatest films of all time, but that is honestly what it was trying to do. It was trying to be a modern day Saving Private Ryan, but it just couldn’t (the CGI bullets that made the movie look like Star Wars on the battlefield didn’t help, either). The resulting movie is a solid war film, nothing more, nothing less.
9 out of 10
Vig, do you seriously think that this movie is 1.5 points worse than Gone Girl? Fury is gripping, well acted, and unflinching, three things that Gone Girl simply wasn’t.
Seriously, though, this movie was fantastic. It was thoroughly entertaining, a characteristic that every movie should strive for but many have lost in their attempt to be artsy, and I was enthralled for the entire 2 hours despite the loud smacking noise coming from my left as someone (Vig) enjoyed his Sour Patch Kids just a little bit too much. ‘
And Vig, don’t you even try to slander this movie by saying that it wasn’t intense enough. I heard you gasping and saying “No!” when the characters’ circumstances looked grim, so whether or not you think that the “cinematography” (I’m not even really sure what that is) wasn’t at the highest level, or that it was “trying too hard to be an awards show movie”, I know that, walking out of the movie, you had enjoyed it just as much as I had.
Enough censuring of Vignesh. Now to Fury.
Anchoring this film was exceptional acting, especially from Shia Labeouf. He played a religious man who often quoted the bible, a la Saving Private Ryan, and he offered a nice contrast between the ideals of religion and the reality of war. He played a gritty, real character and did an incredibly convincing job. I enjoyed seeing his resurrection as an actor, though rumor has it he refused to shower on the set, much to the chagrin of his fellow castmembers.
Logan Lerman, as the young serviceman thrust into the tank crew, was unfortunately a little bit awkward, although to some degree I think that worked for his character, given that he was the odd-man out in a war hardened squad. Bernthal and Pitt also had nice performances, Pitt especially as a man (Wardaddy) who projects strength and detachment from the death around him but who, in reality, is as scared as Lerman’s character. Bernthal wasn’t my favorite. I admit he was fantastic as a man corrupted by his experiences in the war, but I can stop hating him ever since he almost killed Carl in The Walking Dead.
Possibly the best aspect of this movie was the interplay between the Fury tank crew. Their banter was often hilarious and just as often heart breaking. One of the final scenes when they sit in the tank, just talking, awaiting a horde of Nazi soldiers is absolutely magical. It was one of those rare moments in movies when I got a tingling feeling in my stomach.
I’m going to depart from the acting here and move to talking about the plot a little bit more. There will be some spoilers, but be assured that I will announce to you when they are coming.
One of the most essential jobs of any war movie, in my opinion, is not to glorify what’s going on, not to make war out to be an idealistic, patriotic experience. Tim O’Brien, in his collection of stories “The Things They Carried” (If you haven’t read it, it is seriously incredible) asserts that it is unbelievably disrespectful and that, when you’re fighting for your life on a battlefield, it doesn’t matter what country you’re fighting for or what ideals. You’re just fighting for your life.
Fury stays true to the realities of war. It doesn’t flinch in showing the imperfections of the characters and the unscrupulous things they are forced to do. In that way, the movie serves as a testament to how war can pervert the characters of its soldiers.
**Spoiler alert. Ye who read on beware**. One of the most impacting scenes of the movie was when, after Norman’s first encounter with Nazi troops, Wardaddy forces Norman to shoot an unarmed Nazi prisoner. Norman refuses, but Wardaddy ultimately puts the gun in Norman’s hand and uses Norman’s finger to pull the trigger. Later in the movie, though, Norman is an unarmed soldier hiding from a horde of Nazis under his tank, and a young-looking German solider finds him. The Nazi sees him, nods, and moves on. The lack of sympathy on behalf of the Americans and the sympathy shown by the German contrast sharply with eachother and with the anti-Nazi rhetoric used by soldiers throughout the film. Fury shows that, in war, there is no “good” and “bad”, no Jedi and Sith like we believe and wish there is only war. In the words of Wardaddy, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent”. End spoiler alert**
The only place this movie lost points is in its plot development. It followed a tank crew as it moved across Germany, through various towns and camps, which was very interesting, but the culmination of the plot was not even introduced until there were only thirty minutes remaining. Also, there was a point in the movie where it was daytime one second, and then in the very next shot it was nighttime. What happened there?
Unfortunately for Fury, it will, as will every World War II movie, be compared to Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg’s epic is one of my favorite movies of all time, and if I were to review it on Screen Wars it would undoubtedly be a 10. Fury can’t quite live up to Spielberg’s precedent, though it is more gory and realistic given that it was created over 15 years later, and for that it left a little bit, and I do an mean incredibly little bit, to be desired. Still, though, this movie is an Oscar contender. It is real cheese.
Like Fury? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below!