Fury

Fury is a 2014 American war drama film starring Brad Pitt, Michael Peña, Jon Benthal, Shia LaBeouf, and Logan Lerman. It tells the story of a tank crew near the end of World War II. It was directed by David Ayer. Ayer wrote the screenplay for Training Day and the director of the entertaining cop action-drama End of Watch. I have actually never bothered to watch Training Day all the way through. The award-winning film fails to capture my interest. I do not think this to be the fault of Ayer’s screenplay, but rather the film’s director, Antoine Fuqua, otherwise known for cash grab action films like Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer. It shows that Training Day would be a much better film if Ayer had taken on duties as both writer and director. As a sidenote, Fuqua’s magnum opus is in no way worthy of a rip-off CBS television series.

Fury is almost the antithesis to Band of Brothers. While Band of Brothers had an underlying tone of hopefulness and valor in the face of adversity, Fury is a dark, brutal, and cynical tale about the reality that war changes men, and not for the better. From the opening scene onwards, it is made abundantly clear that Wardaddy and the men under his command are complete and unrepentant hardcore dicks. There is no other way to better describe the characters of this movie. They are nihilistic, hopeless, angry, and bitter. There is a difference between “dick” and “unsympathetic characters.”

As the film begins, the Fury tank crew has lost one of its most valued and experienced members. You do not see his death, only his body, still in his seat, with his face blown off, and Michael Peña’s character holding this man’s hand. The rest of the crew angrily and impatiently tell Gordo to get back to work and stop muttering to himself in Spanish because, as Wardaddy puts it: “This is an American tank and we speak American.”

Due to the untimely death of their comrade, the young and inexperienced Norman, a typist abruptly rerouted on his way to battalion headquarters, is chosen as their replacement. Norman is confused and terrified at his new duties, much to the outright annoyance and occasional bemusement of his colleagues. The baby-faced, naive, and cowardly Norman is faced with contempt at almost every turn. While performing his first duty of helping clean out the tank, the young Norman is disgusted to find the partially liquefied remains of his predecessor’s face in the tank.

After Norman’s inaction leads to the death of another tank crew, Wardaddy decides to force the kid to execute a German soldier.

The rest of the crew explain to the traumatized Norman that “Don’s crazier than a shithouse rat, but he’s solid.” That scene may make Wardaddy out to look like a monster, but as the film went on and you spend more and more time with his character, his decision makes sense, and is a way to help the young Norman and the rest of his crew survive.

Fury came under a tremendous amount of fire (pun-intended) for featuring a scene in which, after noticing a woman peeking out a window while on a short R&R in a Allied-overtaken German town, Wardaddy and Norman force their way into the woman’s home and discover the woman and her cousin. Wardaddy and Norman, while convincing the terrified young women that they pose no threat, somewhat rudely and unceremoniously make themselves at home. At first, Wardaddy is his usual cold and uncaring self, but seemingly begins to put the two at ease. The boyish and charming Norman is able to charm the beautiful young Emma, and they both go into the bedroom, with Norman taking his gun. Wardaddy explains to the older woman that they are “both young… and alive.” Norman further charms Emma with a cheesy palm reading act, and they have completely consensual sex. She likes Norman, and was actually the one to lead him into the bedroom. Yes, the entire scene is extremely uncomfortable for the most part (it’s meant to be), but in no way does Norman rape Emma, although the circumstances surrounding the incident are quite unique. I dissect this scene to such an extent to provide a counter to the outrage which this scene caused, apparently “derailing an otherwise great movie.” The thing is, it absolutely does the opposite. The scene, from the beginning when the two soldiers force their way into the apartment to when they leave to carry out new orders, is extremely effective. Don “Wardaddy” Collier is not a nice person (his nickname is “Wardaddy,” guys). He is the type of person you would expect to breach and clear your home and then have the audacity to ask for hospitality. Nothing in this sequence is out of character for either of out protagonists. Even if Emma did get raped, which she DID NOT, it still wouldn’t ruin anything in the movie. I’m in no way condoning rape or violence against women, it is sick and depraved, but so is the rest of the movie.  This movie is messed up on a lot of levels, because the point being made is “war is messed up.” I don’t think anyone would argue that war (not the warriors that fight them) is a bad thing. People kill other people, that’s the goal, as Wardaddy explains to Norman many times. None of the characters in this film are good, wholesome, people. Maybe they used to be, but war has changed them. That’s why I refer to them as protagonists rather than heroes. They all, with no hesitation, commit depraved acts of violence in this film. I don’t see why one more (which didn’t actually happen) somehow derails a film otherwise seemingly built upon depraved acts of violence. I almost forgot to mention that the portion with Emma and Norman in the bedroom takes up about two minutes of the about 15-minute-long sequence. There’s so much more to it that no one cared about.

That’s not to say this film doesn’t eventually actually go entirely off the rails. For the majority of the film, these juvenile, nihilistic, uncaring men who hate the position in which they have been put, suddenly undergo an uncalled for change to good, valorous men in the final act of the film. The Fury and its crew have been ordered to hold a crossroads against German forces so that a supply line can continue unabated. Upon arriving at a crossroads, the tank is disabled by a land mine. Unable to move the vehicle to a strategic position, the entire plan is screwed and they will most certainly die. Wardaddy decides to make a (obviously futile) final stand , telling his men to abandon him and head for the treeline, to safety. As is custom for this cliché, none of them do, and they choose to stand behind their leader, because friendship and camaraderie conquers a— wait, what??? This is the point where the movie is ruined. The entire theme of this movie (as emphasized by everything that happened before this scene, as well as the lighting, soundtrack, effects, and acting) is that war turns people rotten. These men, up until this point, have shown no traces of valor or heroism. There is no reason for any of Wardaddy’s crew to stay, they would run for the hills. That doesn’t even make them bad people. The mission cannot be completed, their deaths would be (and ultimately are) for nothing. Wardaddy doesn’t want to stay there to complete the mission, he wants to make a final stand because of a pathological hatred and bloodlust for the Waffen SS in particular. This hatred (and the scars he possesses) is never explained, and I feel like it is more effective if we don’t know why. But no, for some odd reason, that is carried across by the soundtrack and Brad Pitt’s emotions, Wardaddy has a mission which he, honest to God, wants to attempt to complete. So the men stay, exclusively so everyone can die in a glorious, intense battle to round out a movie that doesn’t need a final battle in the first place. Most filmmakers behind these war films fail to understand that a character death isn’t sad if it’s expected. I mean if the characters all accept the fact that they are all going to die, which here, they do, the audience is also going to. Add on top of that the fact that they are here in a situation that makes no sense given their previous characterization on a futile mission in which they accomplish nothing of consequence, I didn’t feel sad when they all died. They all die in vain on a task of sheer stupidity and nonsense that completely undermines the main narrative in the name of valor, friendship, and other thematic clichés.

Despite a stupid third act, the first two acts of Fury are a near-perfect, interesting, dark, intense, and brutal character analysis of the effects of war on the people fighting it. Brad Pitt gives the least charismatic performances of his career and nails it. The film is further anchored by excellent performances from Logan Lerman and Shia LaBeouf. The premise is interesting and, I feel, a nice inversion of the submarine war movie genre. The cinematography is good and the makeup effects are actually very good and believable. The computer-generated effects are atrocious, however. The blood-splatter is obviously fake to the level it took me out of the movie, and for some inexcusable reason, the bullet and tank grenade streak effects are colors of obnoxiously bright orange and green, a la Star Wars. I don’t know who’s responsible, but he or they hopefully have been reprimanded. David Ayer is the director behind the upcoming DC Extended Universe feature Suicide SquadBased on the direction and writing of this film (except for the atrocious and contradictory third act), I am quite hopeful for it as long as the effects team gets its stuff together.

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