FURY: MR. JOLIE TAKES ON THE KRAUTS IN A MOBILE METAL BOX

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In WWII United States Armor forces took a hell of beating. The slaughter of tankers was almost as great as that of airmen or frontal assault/amphibious infantrymen. NAZI armor forces were highly experienced and had better safer tanks with larger higher velocity main tubes than the American Army heavy combat tank, the M4 Sherman. We learn all that in a title card at the start of Brad Pitt’s WW2 action flick Fury.

Fury of the title of the movie refers to the M4 Sherman tank, and the crew that goes with it, that SSGT Don “Wardaddy’ Collier (Mr. Jolie) has commanded since North Africa. We are introduced to SSGT Collier via him killing a German officer on a horse with a knife in the hauntingly beautiful opening sequence of the movie. The Fury and its crew – gunner Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia Labeouf), driver Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal) and the mangled dead body of the unnamed assistant driver, are all that remains of their platoon. For the moment they are stuck in a nightmare land straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, full of dead soldiers, horses and the twisted and blasted hulks of American and NAZI tanks. The Fury crew is feverishly trying to get the tank operational and shoehorning character introduction and development into the first few minutes of the film. To no one’s surprise they managed to make it back to their company and move on to the next battle.

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Before they go gallivanting down the road, the crew of the Fury are given a new assistant driver, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) an 8 week wonder that was not trained as a tanker but as a clerk. In April 1945 the hell-bent for leather 2nd Armor Division needed tank crewman more than they needed clerks so Norman is now a member of the Fury crew and the rough introduction sequence begins. This is the first 15 minutes of the movie and it is for the most part all the direct character development we will get.

From there the rest of the movie, except for a diversion with two German females in a captured town, is a series of almost unconnected set pieces that lead up to the big finale of the Fury crew defending a crossroads, by themselves, from 300 hardcore SS troopers.

As far the action goes, director and writer David Ayers has always shown a talent in this direction. The action is clear and easily followed. He doesn’t rely on shaky cam to get the Hollywood desired “immediacy” feel of combat. Instead he uses the natural claustrophobia of a tank interior juxtaposed against the infantry maneuver elements and other tank’s mobility in open space to tell the story of a fight to great effect. Ayers also effectively showed the innate brutality of urban combat in the cramped twisting turning ancient streets of a German town where every rooftop, alleyway and window is a potential ambush site.

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The acting in Fury ranges from serviceable to outstanding. Mr. Jolie as “Wardaddy” is playing a role he can do in his sleep. He never particularly shines as Collier but he is effective as the symbolic parent  to a disparate group he has kept alive for over 2 years in violent combat. “Wardaddy” is a man turned violent and consumed by hatred of Germans and his need to keep his men alive and he pays that toll as shown throughout the movie. However we do see glimpses of the real Don Collier throughout the movie, a surprisingly erudite man who speaks German and has decent instincts as shown by his interactions with the two German women in their apartment.

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Bernthal and Pena are more or less playing stock characters. Pena is the semi cholo and Bernthal is the hardcore southerner. Both enjoy the spoils of war, cheap sex (all you needed was a bit of food or a few cigarettes) and looting. They are also the token “tough guys “ with rough edges and not a lot of redeeming qualities. These two are serviceable in their “not asked a lot of” roles. The real standout here is Shia LaBeouf. He infuses his stock character with a life all its own almost as if he is in a different movie. I found myself watching his character more than anyone’s even “Wardaddy” who is always front and center in every scene.

All the technical aspects of Fury, the direction, the cinematography, the acting, all that sort of thing were all pretty well on point. The problem that Fury has is in the writing and the varying tones that Ayers tried to fit into the overall narrative. What I mean by tone is this, he had at least 4 different ideas (that I saw – there were probably others I missed) that he tried to force on the story, sometimes in the very same scene, which lead to a very incomplete feeling settling over the script. Below are the ideas he tried to make happen and did not. If he had stuck to one of two I think he would have had a home run on his hand, instead he hit a stand up double. These are in no particular order.

  1. A hero tale with the very flawed SSGT Collier at the center/men on a mission story
  2. The effect combat has on a man
  3. A clichéd filled homage/tribute to 1950’s style WWII movies
  4. Lastly and the biggie, a post modern deconstruction of WWII and 1950’s WWII style movies as viewed through the prism of a post Afghanistan/Iraq/9-11 world

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All in all Fury is a good movie but ultimately a frustrating one. It could have been great if Ayers had decided to err on the side of less is more. So I give Fury a middle of the road recommendation. If you are looking for a brutal war flick this might be for you. If you are looking for a complete movie then this will disappoint. It’s decent but not as great as it thinks it is.

Xiphos

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18 responses to “FURY: MR. JOLIE TAKES ON THE KRAUTS IN A MOBILE METAL BOX”

  1. tombando says :

    More than willing to give this a look…how is Lerman there? And Mr Nononono is good? Sounds worthy right there. Lack of shakeycam is a Big plus.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Lerman is nondescript. he was the one character I had the hardest time with he basically assimilated in like 5 minutes.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        Good review Xi. Your complaint of competing tones is exactly where I had an issue too. I think middle-of-road is a good description of it, although I’m slightly in the negative on it.

        At it’s heart, when all is said and done, it’s more a 1950’S B-war picture at the script level, but the film really does want to focus on the toll of war, and as you said, deconstructing that war in light of recent combat perspective. The problem is by the end, it’s basically the lone last stand that plays more like a video-game than anything else.

        I didn’t think any acting job was bad, but none of them were really outstanding because of the stock writing. LaBeouf’s character was the most interesting, but I’m still out on whether it was his performance or the fact his character was given just a few facets and contradictions more than everyone else.

        The tank sequences and the action skirmishes were pretty darn good, and there’s an immediacy to all of that which was really effective. You get the sense of what it might have been like to have to ride and live in that tank.

        One of the scenes that really didn’t work for me was the mid-section with the two girls. When it’s fixated on Collier and the women, and you are seeing his character subtly revealed, that works. The latter half just felt forced and clunky, and for a few minutes there I was fearful it was going to spill into SPR territory, although thankfully, that never happened.

        The early, unflinching pragmatism of it all is quite well handled–the scene where Collier is trying to stress the importance of shooting the enemy is intense and perfectly pitched–but all of the grueling realism eventually gives way to just another war fantasy of sorts. I don’t mind either depiction, but they sit a little uneasy with each other.

        Fine, interesting, never boring, but it disappointed me, because it seemed to squander the potential it was building in those early scenes.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Yeah i agree with with all that Jonah.

  2. Continentalop says :

    I’m hoping to see FURY early this week. Then I’ll read this review and comments.

  3. tombando says :

    Okay just saw this and here’s my take …

    *Noted_Sage Xiphos is on target for the most part. Film is a bit of a mishmash at times.

    *Lerman as the rookie has a Tobey Maguire/Gylenhaal thing going, he went from scared kid (Paging Richard Jaeckel who patented it) to Me Love It! In record time. He’s ok in the role.

    *Dinner scene needed to end before the others got there. About when Blondie does the walk of shame out to the table, Pitt shoulda said ‘cheers’ and then we see a cut to them all ‘back on the rd’ so to speak. Less woulda been more there.

    *Fave scenes–tank fights in fields, well done. Shia, Pena and Goober are all ok.

    *Tank as the Alamo–hmmm bought it for plot sake, nothing more. I groaned at the flashlight scene, and so will you. The fighting is well staged, I did enjoy seeing a non-shakey cam War movie.

    *Charles Schulz was in Germany last 2 weeks of the war, saw some combat fwiw.

    *Recommended.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      I agree about the dinner scene that would have been the place to end it when she comes out of the bedroom. I guess they were trying to show that Mr. Joilie wasn’t all bad he still had some humanity left.

      The kid was a non-factor to me he didn’t really stand out in anyway and went from fraidy cat to Achilles in no point no seconds which was just dumb.

      • tombando says :

        Yah I didnt buy it, he was in the fetal position when Pitt introed him to the POW, then in 6 minutes is all Bronson at the button in the tank. You need to be able to see it happen and they just dont.

        Liked the movie overall though tank stuff was good. Having Ronald Quincy from Research as a CO was a neat touch too.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Who?

      • tombando says :

        Jason Isaacs. Armageddon Ref sadly. I coulda used a Patriot one for him instead.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Ah OK got it. Yeah he was serviceable in his limited role.

  4. ThereWolf says :

    Nice one, Xi. Am looking forward to seeing this at some point.

    Have you seen ‘Lebanon: The Soldier’s Journey’? That’s claustrophobic – to the point when somebody opens the hatch and the crew squint into the sudden sunlight… and I was squinting along with them! They never get out of the tank – it’s gruelling. Not the best film I’ve ever seen but certainly worth a look…

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      No Wolf I have not seen it in fact I’ve never heard of it!

      I assume its tank movie but set in Lebanon?

      • ThereWolf says :

        Oh yeh, it’s all tank – subtitled Israeli movie. I think it’s set on the first day of the Lebanon war and the only view outside is through the gunner’s crosshairs. The film begins & ends on an exterior – but that’s the only time.

        At one point they have to transport a dead soldier, elsewhere they have to transport a Syrian prisoner. Mainly it’s about how the 4-man crew handle the conflict & each other.

        I also recall quite a lumpen moment when the tank ploughs into a travel agency & the gunner’s roving crosshairs pause on a poster of NYC and the WTC towers…

        The director was a tank gunner in the Lebanon war as well.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I’ll try and find it sounds like it might be interesting.

  5. Just Pillow Talk says :

    Sounds like a decent 50’s equivalent. I’ll eventually check it out.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      The 50’s angle is one of the problems with the movie if it stuck with that it would’ve been fine but they didn’t. It’s a decent rental.

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