Friday, October 17, 2014

A Reel Review: FURY

The Second World War seems like an over-used backdrop for movies to set their stories in, but the clear fact is…WWII was just too big an event which affected too many lives to ever run out of material. Director David Ayer’s FURY is another small piece of the gigantic WWII canvas; a canvas which is always worth looking deeper into.
In the waning days of WWII as the Allies make a final push for victory, a battle-hardened tank commander named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank (nicknamed Fury) and her five-man crew (Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal), which includes a rookie (Logan Lerman).

War is hell, and FURY embraces every last flame of it. The film is put together as an old fashioned, classic-Hollywood, blood-and-guts war story full of dirt, mud, explosions, and body parts getting blown to bits all over the place. FURY does not have much by way of plot, and is very much episodic as the crew goes from mission-to-mission, predicament-to-predicament. During it all we spend a lot of time with the characters who crew the tank…characters who we have a hard time caring about because they are the biggest bunch of assholes in all of Europe. With the exception of the rookie Norman (we experience the film through his eyes), the crew are animalistic and without souls. Maybe that’s the message that FURY is trying to get across…what war does to the men who fight it, but it makes for difficult viewing when you really don’t care about the characters. FURY is a very tight film with very little room for heart and soul, and although we do get a break now and then from the most-excellent battle scenes with some nice intimate moments, it will likely leave you cold.
Director David Ayer stages some stunning set-pieces with practical effects and very little to no CGI. Shooting on 35mm allows FURY to show the gory and muddy detail perfectly, and the film has a very classic feel to it. Ayer spends a lot of time inside and around the tank nicknamed Fury; so much that the tank becomes a character in the film, and we actually care about the tank more than the characters. Ayer doesn’t bother with any sort of morality tale and only occasionally tries to generate some tears, as he is too busy putting together a great-looking, pulse-pounding, bowel-moving war film.

Prior to filming, Ayer put his actors through a boxing boot-camp in which the cast basically fought each other to generate some hostility. This technique shows in the final product as the crew is just as hostile to each other as they are to the enemy. Brad Pitt gets most of the attention and shoulders most of the film. His character is kept distant and isn’t developed past the commander who needs to keep everyone alive. He is gruff and tough with small peeks beneath the thick skin, and Pitt sells it perfectly. Logan Lerman has a lot do, including keeping pace with Pitt, and does so very well. The rest of the cast is stellar, with Shia LaBeouf turning some surprisingly very good work.
After a tremendous final battle with an outcome that’s a little predictable, FURY wraps with a little bit of a “that’s it?” type of feeling. With no ultimate objective, no real narrative, and no heart-and-soul it’s likely to leave you cold, but maybe that’s the message FURY is trying to get across. This is a film about war and nothing else, and not all war stories have rainbows.


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