Fury (2014)

‘The Best Job I Ever Had…’






As I sat down to watch this film it passed through my mind that Brad Pitt shouldn’t have too much trouble with the German army, since last year he took out an entire planet full of zombies; and that was the last facetious thought that I had for the next couple of hours, because Fury is a grim and savage affair with only the very blackest of humour and heavy on the violence of tank warfare during World War II.

In a sense it could be seen to take up where Sam Peckinpah’s WWII masterpiece Cross of Iron left off.  The war is drawing to a close and final push as Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) is asked where the rest of his platoon is.  He replies that he and his fellow survivors are it.

Writer and director David Ayer keeps the focus pretty tightly on this one group of men; and this is the kind of bunch where everyone has a nickname:  there’s ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia LaBeouf);  ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Peña) and ‘Coon-ass’ Travis ( Jon Bernthal).  Joining them in a nod to convention is Logan Lerman as the raw, innocent new recruit Norman Ellison.  And don’t worry, our Norman will have his own nickname before the end credits roll.

Despite his Marvel Comics-type name, Wardaddy and his boys are no Sergeant Fury and His Howling Commandos.  Nor is Wardaddy the type to put a friendly arm around a rookie’s shoulders; he is only interested in keeping everyone alive and if that means forcing him to shoot a German prisoner in the back, then so be it. The boy is given a couple of pieces of advice:  “Do as you’re told and don’t get too close to anyone” and “Fire in short bursts – it harvests more meat per bullet”.  And Wardaddy is summed up to him as:  “Crazier than a shithouse rat; but solid”.

These are brutal men, brutalized by their experiences and (as with Peckinpah’s film) you find yourself wondering how any of them could ever be let back into society.  The Sherman tank (with the single word Fury sprayed on it) has become their home, the war has become their lives.  A constant refrain among them is that this is the best job they ever had – and they are only half in jest.  Due to the realism of the battle scenes (which contain at least two Oh fuck! moments) we get to know these men, even though in my case I didn’t particularly like them.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  On the other hand we never see the Germans as anything other than Krauts to be hated:  and that is obviously intentional as the American soldiers themselves have been so dehumanized in their attitudes.

Fury begins with a bleakly beautiful image wherein a man on a horse rides over rough, faintly smoking terrain.  The scene ends in unexpected and ugly violence.  Later there is a startling moment when Norman begins to play on a piano; startling because beauty has no place in this world.  It isn’t long before that scene, too, descends into ugliness.

Well, it’s an ugly film.  What perhaps stops it becoming a truly great war (or anti-war) movie like Robert Aldrich’s Attack! or Elim Klimov’s Come and See is the curiously mawkish tone it takes on in the last thirty or so minutes and which I felt unbalanced it.

Still, I’m not into war movies; if you are then you really can’t afford to miss this one.




Author: Charley Brady

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