When I first started seeing theatrical trailers for Fury, I would inwardly (and sometimes openly) groan with displeasure, because I feel that the last thing this world needs is another movie that glorifies the violent taking of other people’s shit, commonly known as war. So I was pretty much planning on not seeing it… until I read some of the reviews and learned that glorification was the absolute last thing on director David Ayer’s mind. Which makes sense for someone who claims that his favorite movie is Apocalypse Now.
David Denby of The New Yorker (whom I usually ignore) calls it “one of the great war movies…” I might take issue with that, but I readily admit that it is an involving piece of cinema about the very harrowing prospect of life and death in a tank in an old, bloody war. Many people will not like this film, just as many didn’t like other war movies bent on telling the truth about the ultimate futility of fighting, but it is hard to argue this film’s visceral impact. Check out the trailer and then my 5 things:
1) Brad Pitt is perfect. It’s as if they were waiting for him to grow old enough to play this role. His face is an open canvas of all the pain and horror he has experienced on the battlefield, and his eyes vividly convey his thoughts at every moment. Pitt pulls off an understated, masterful performance of a man haunted by atrocity. Pitt has never been grittier.
2) Ayer pulls no punches. War is gory business, and the production design and special effects team put it all up on the screen and in your face. Even in our video game era, in which many have become somewhat desensitized to gore from our games, it can still be a shock to see a truck full of corpses, even if only for a glimpse. War is hell, baby.
3) Rape and pillage are an inescapable fact of warfare. The vast majority of WWII movies have taken great pains to paint heroic portraits of the men (and rarely, the women) of our armed services doing great deeds to secure our freedoms. One would be hard-pressed indeed to find a film that shows our troops in a less-than-flattering light, in the same way that films like Apocalypse Now (1979) and Platoon (1986) did. Fury is that film, and the scene in which the American troops overrun a German town only hints at the crimes that some soldiers undoubtedly committed during the course of our involvement overseas. Pitt stays unsullied in this particular instance, but his crew make it clear that the man is no angel.
4) Shia LaBeouf is a fine actor. Although I would argue that he’s not give that much to do in this one, he serves as the moral center of a group of men who’s morals have degenerated due to circumstance. LaBeouf’s character has one hand on his ever-present Bible, and his other hand out trying to save his tank mates (and others) and his third (?) hand on the trigger of their tank’s cannon, dispensing death/retribution/freedom with each blast. After his mesmerizing work in Lars Von Triers’ Nymphomaniac series, this kid is on a roll, saving his career from the ravages of Michael Bay.
5) The inevitable video game. Remember Tank for Atari? Remember Battlezone at the arcades back in the day? Yeah, this one will be nothing like those. The glorification of war continues despite everyone’s best intentions. I still groan with displeasure.
Fury director David Ayers is a short-timer in Hollywood, with only 5 features to his credit. Most of his notoriety was established by his writing; he penned the screenplays for U-571 (meh), The Fast and the Furious (yech) and Training Day (again, meh). His brief directorial filmography is filled with cop stuff, but to his credit, he has worked with uniformly top talent in his career: Christian Bale, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Keanu Reeves, Jake Gyllenhaal and now Pitt.
My Visionary or Hack vote for Ayer? In the Lobby.