US Release Date: 10-17-2014
Directed by: David Ayer
- Brad Pitt, as
- Don Collier
- Shia LaBeouf, as
- Boyd Swan
- Logan Lerman, as
- Norman Ellison
- Michael Pena, as
- Trini Garcia
- Jon Bernthal, as
- Grady Travis
- Jim Parrack, as
- Sergeant Binkowski
- Brad William Henke, as
- Sergeant Davis
- Kevin Vance, as
- Sergeant Peterson
- Xavier Samuel, as
- Lieutenant Parker
- Jason Isaacs, as
- Captain Waggoner
- Anamaria Marinca, as
- Alicia von Rittberg, as
- Scott Eastwood, as
- Sergeant Miles
- Laurence Spellman as
- Sergeant Dillard
Logan Lerman and Brad Pitt in Fury
There have been many war films made over the years and often the theme has been that war is hell. Fury takes it to another level. Not only is war hell, but you must be ready to actively make it Hell if you want to win and survive. The moral lesson is not to just be strong enough to defeat your enemy but be willing to bathe in their blood if that is what it takes.
Fury plays out in three acts, with the first being by far the best. The movie begins in April, 1945 as we get introduced to a tank crew that has been together throughout much of the war. Don (Brad Pitt) is the tank commander who seems to have balls of steel in front of his men but when alone looks as if he wants to cuddle up in his mother’s embrace. Boyd (Shia Labeouf) is the religious one while Trini (Michael Pena) and Grady (Jon Bernthal) are given even less personality.
The crew has recently lost their fifth member in a battle. He is replaced by the young Norman (Logan Lerman) who trained in administrative work and has never even been in a tank. His first job is to clean the remains of his predecessor from the seat that now belongs to him. Norman has a hard time adjusting to the sudden violent world he is thrown into. Don comments to him that, “I had the best gunner in the entire United States Army in that seat. Now I got you.”
The most dramatically gripping scenes are the ones featuring Pitt and Lerman. Both actors give great performances. Norman’s baptism into killing is blunt and extremely harsh. Don knows what needs to be done and poor Norman, no matter how much he may think otherwise, has no say in the matter. These are some mature scenes to watch and the squeamish may find them disturbing.
The second act is a detour from the fighting. The tank crew, as well as other American G.I.s, has some rest and relaxation in a just surrendered German town. While Boyd objects, “I hope you get scabies.” to Trini and Grady taking a woman into their tank, Don takes Norman and barges into a home with two women in it. Don, who can speak German, demands that the middle-aged one make the four of them dinner, using some eggs he provides.
This scene may very well become the movies most talked about. As the two put upon women make dinner, Don shaves and Norman plays a piano. The younger girl, Emma, begins singing along to the tune. Don tells Norman that if he doesn’t take that girl into the bedroom and have sex with her, he will. Norman, who does not speak German, makes some hand gestures and the girl seemingly agrees. They go in with the girl smiling and acting as if she is completely okay with what is about to occur. The movie implies they have sex but nothing is shown beyond a kiss.
One description I read of this scene aptly called it consensual rape. Norman is not shown forcing himself on her physically and she seems to be content with whatever took place in that room. Either this scene was horribly put together or it was filmed through the filter of Norman’s mind. His version of these events is not likely the same as the women’s. Enemy soldiers invade their home with guns aimed at every corner, scaring them to their core. The foreigners demand dinner and hot water to shave with. These women want to survive and so comply with whatever these men order. Did they actually think they had a choice in whether or not sex was going to happen? Watch the German made A Woman in Berlin (2008) and see what happens to women when an enemy force occupies their town when all of their men are gone or dead, and you may have a different perspective than Norman.
The final act is all action as Don breaks a promise he made to his men. Their tank breaks down at a symbolic country cross roads. They find themselves outnumbered by an approaching battalion of German soldiers. All they have is their tank, some machine guns and each other.
This part of the film is all exciting dramatic action but it misses a few beats. They know the enemy force is coming and have some time to prepare for it, yet in the middle of battle they run out of ammo, meaning someone has to climb out of the tank as it is stored on the outside of the tank, and bring it back in. Seriously? No one thought to bring that in beforehand? The battle lasts quite a while. In one scene it is day light and then suddenly it is night.
Fury seems to want to say that not only is war hell on Earth but the only way to win it is to be the one stoking hells fire. As a noted liberal, Pitt has some lines that may shock his fans. At one point he yells at Lerman to kill anyone, regardless of whether or not they are a soldier. Don says to Norman, “It will end, soon. But before it does, a lot more people have to die.” Pitt has the film's best line when he sums it all up with, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”
Brad Pitt in Fury.
The premise of this movie isn't a new one. Describe the general plot and you be could describing any of a dozen World War II movies. Where this one stands out is the way, as Eric described, that it depicts the familiar story as such hell. Were this movie made in the 1940s or 1950s it would have been a gung-ho, patriotic war picture with honorable, clean-limbed, and bright-eyed heroes. Not so here, where the film doesn't just show the hell and grime of war, it wallows in it by showing the ugliness of battle and death and the way they can make men ugly and dirty as well.
Of the cast, I agree with Eric that Pitt's Don and Lerman's Norman are the only two who are really fleshed out. They both deliver very solid performances. Pitt is the gruff Sergeant who is single-minded in keeping his tank crew alive no matter how many Nazis he has to kill to accomplish it. The audience is allowed to see the price this costs him in a couple of moments when he is alone. Lerman as Norman represents the audience. When he enters the story he's still used to a world where there are rules and propriety. Don and his crew have been in battle for so long that such a world is long gone for them. They are not pleasant people and their behavior is shocking to both Norman and the audience. Unfortunately, as Eric wrote, we don't really get to know the other members of the tank crew and can only judge them by their behavior. Fighting Nazis makes their cause righteous, but their methods are crude and ruthless.
Although the movie never shies away from blood and dirt, it skirts the issue of rape. As Eric said, the German girl is shown to be a willing participant in the sex, which given the circumstances hardly seems realistic, at least as depicted. We see this scene entirely from the soldier's point of view and their reactions are treated as paramount to it, while the women's reactions are just background noise. Even with the deaths that happen, the reactions of the men are treated more importantly than the deaths themselves.
The final battle is excitingly done and well filmed, despite the minor quibbles Eric mentioned. Much of it takes place within the claustrophobic confines of the tank, but quick editing, lots of explosions, and plenty of Nazis keep things moving. And it's a testament to the cast and crew that even though the ending is inevitable, things remain tense right up until the end. The scene in the battle that annoyed me wasn't either of the two things Eric pointed out, but was instead the final scene in the battle where an American and German soldier share a moment that just didn't feel real to me.
With both its sacrificial heroics and depiction of the uglier side of war this movie feels like some kind of amalgamation of a 1940s' war movie and a 1970s' anti-war movie. It shows the cost of teaching men killing as a way of life and that even heroes are capable of ugly acts. Honor and Sunday School behavior aren't the best tools for surviving in war. This combination of genres doesn't make high entertainment, but it does produce a gripping war film.
Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal in Fury.
What bothered me most about the climactic battle scene was how it began. The Logan Lerman character was able to spot the approaching German soldiers and then run a short distance back to warn the tank crew. Yet it then takes a long time before these same soldiers reach the spot that Lerman ran to in a matter of seconds. I also found the moment Scott mentioned between the German and American soldier to be quite unrealistic.
I think it's funny that Eric referred to the German woman played by the 35-year-old Anamaria Marinca as middle-aged yet he failed to mention the fact that at 49 Brad Pitt was about 20 years older than your average NCO in WWII. The captain that everyone calls “The Old Man” was played by Jason Isaacs. In real life he's just 6 months older than Pitt.
Despite these minor quibbles I thought Fury was a decent WWII movie. Pitt does a solid job in the John Wayne role. Logan Lerman is also quite good as the conscience of the movie. The other three crew members may not be fully fleshed out but they are at least portrayed by a talented group of actors. Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena and John Bernthal all bring an intensity to their roles that really suits the setting. It's pretty clear from early on in the movie just who will survive and who will perish.
Fury is quite old fashioned in style. Apart from the language and graphic violence this movie could have been made at any time since 1945. When was the last time soldiers were shown quoting scripture in a big budget Hollywood war movie? Director David Ayer went for realism in terms of uniforms, equipment, and weapons. In fact, Fury holds the distinction of being the first movie to feature a real Tiger tank on set, as opposed to a prop version, since the 1946 British war film Theirs is the Glory.
I agree that the scene with the two German women is pure heterosexual male fantasy. The threat of rape is there but the director tries to turn the situation into a thing of beauty and innocence - a moment of purity in the midst of unimaginable carnage that Norman will carry with him for the rest of his days. But these female characters are nothing more than props to be discarded in the very next scene with barely a backward glance.
I also thoroughly disliked the following scene where the remaining three members of the tank squad intrude on dinner. The script goes overboard in making them look like assholes. This is the one scene that would never have been included in your grandfather's WWII movie. And for good reason. We're supposed to be the good guys but Ayers has them act like despicable jerks. War may be hell but that's no excuse for behaving this way towards your fellow soldiers and innocent civilians.
Fury is a gloriously brutal war picture that utilizes old fashioned Hollywood trappings while wallowing in today's CGI gore. There have been hundreds of WWII movies made over the past 75 years. Fury doesn't break any new ground but it covers this well-worn territory in a fairly effective manner.
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures (2014)