Tweetable Takeaway: Even after sticking the audience in a small enclosure with a sweaty, mustachioed Shia LaBeouf, Fury still delivers.
by: Wil Loper, Contributor
FURY sticks the audience in a small metal enclosure with a sweaty, mustachioed Shia LaBeouf for over 2 hours and manages to be one of the better releases of the year. Credit might be given for that alone, but the movie accomplishes a lot more along the way.
Fury tells the story of a Sherman tank and its five-man crew in the waning days of World War II. The cast features first and most prominently, Brad Pitt as Don “Wardaddy.” Pitt is at his gruffest, and a great deal more world weary than his similar Nazi-killing character in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds. For those keeping track, Pitt maintains his status as one of the great movie eaters by partaking in some eggs halfway through the movie. It’s up to Pitt to keep his crew alive, a task that we see weigh heavily upon his furrowed brows through much of the movie; it seems that Wardaddy could give Atlas with the world on his shoulders a run for his money.
Rounding out his crew are Michael Peña as dependable driver “Gordo,” Jon Bernthal as crazy “Coon-Ass,” and Shia LaBeouf as “Bible,” so named for his tendency to quote scripture. And finally we have Logan Lerman as hopelessly innocent Norman. Norman is a typist who gets roped into the war effort and stuck in the tank with Pitt and the rest of the crew, despite never having fired a gun, much less seen the inside of a tank. It is with Norman that the audience descends into the hell that is war.
Those looking for escapist fare featuring straightforward tank action may want to look again. This is a movie that doesn’t shy from the brutality of war. Squeamish moviegoers will want to forego that extra heaping of butter on their popcorn. Although not nearly as brutal, the movie mirrors Elem Klimov’s ‘Come and See’ in showing the horrors of war through the eyes of a boy, except that in Fury, the Norman begins the movie against taking part in any fighting and in ‘Come and See’ the boy is excited to get a gun and start shooting enemy soldiers.
For both characters, it doesn’t take long for them to witness the horrors man is willing to perform on his fellow man. Jon Bernthal’s character is a wily, almost unhinged man that is nearly a caricature but for a scene three-quarters through the movie. After being an asshole to Norman for his entire tank stay, Coon-Ass submits a heartfelt apology to Norman, and it’s in this tender moment we realize that Coon-Ass and the rest of the men are no longer fully human. They no longer can tell which way is up. They have seen things they cannot unsee; Pitt’s character reveals a mazework of scars on his back, but they are nothing compared to the scars that have been burned onto the men’s minds. This is a movie that causes you to think, hey, maybe the guy futzing half an hour with a plastic candy wrapper next to you in the movie theater isn’t really that bad after all.
Fury falters a little in the final act, where the machismo of the men’s actions seems to exist for its own sake rather than extend organically from the plot. David Ayer writes and directs, having previously written and directed End of Watch. Both movies end with a situation in which the main characters face no hope of survival. In Fury, a large group of Nazi soldiers are headed toward the men and they decide to stand their ground and fight. Now, I know not to go into a war movie and expect five main characters to live. But the way Fury and one of my biggest gripes with End of Watch is that it walks characters into situations that are not altogether believable. In Fury especially, the characters’ actions serve the plot in the finale instead of the characters themselves.
Now, there could have been a number of themes that the movie could have unified in this decision. Perhaps Pitt’s character knows when he returns home he will not be able to function in normal society, where death isn’t waiting for him in every tree or around every bend. The look in Pitt’s eyes through much of the movie, suggestive of a no longer present soul, I could have bought this alternate motivation. Instead, not much explanation is given, and at times it often seems as if patriotism was the motivating factor, which isn’t entirely in line with the rest of the movie.
Despite my complaints of the ending, the power of the first two-thirds of the movie cannot be denied. This movie nails the horror of war, the all-too-true argument that in war, there are no real winners outside history books. The men and women who face their human counterparts, just like them except for a different-colored uniform, and take their life away understand this. This is a movie that will have you wanting to get up and shout, “Can’t we all just get along?”
But seriously. Open that wrapper during the previews.
I give it 4 Shia LaBeouf moustaches out of 5.
Score: 4 out of 5