Can't Get Enough of Those Nazis. Even better, most of the bad guys in the movie are SS, which are, like, the Naziest.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three Rommels out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Veteran WWII tank commander must contend with rookie driver while trying to survive the 2nd Armored Division's final push into Germany.
Tagline: "War never ends quietly."
Better Tagline: "Das Platoon."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Sgt. Dan "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) has kept the crew of his Sherman tank "Fury" alive from North Africa to Germany, at least until now. His veteran gunner dead, Wardaddy is forced to take on the newly recruited Norman (Logan Lerman), trained as a typist but now -- with the final push into Germany upon them -- thrust into the unforgiving world of tank warfare. When the "Fury" is pressed into leading a desperate mission to stop a German counterattack, Norman's typing skills are unlikely to come into play.
"Critical" Analysis: World War II movies, American ones anyway, tend to be more inspirational in tone than their international counterparts (for reasons that should be obvious). Even recent, grittier efforts like Saving Private Ryan invoke the spirit of the Greatest Generation as the violins swell over the credits. And why not? Never mind that guy over there trying to stuff his intestines back into his abdominal cavity; this was the Last Good War.
So give writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day) credit for not bringing that "Band of Brothers" shit here. Fury starts out refreshingly bleak, which seems like an odd thing to say. Reality, however, dictates that we accept for every upright, God-fearing soldier like "Bible" (Shia LaBeouf) or the conscientious objector wannabe Norman there were barely literate bullies like "Coon Ass" (Jon Bernthal, playing Shane from The Walking Dead's crueler grandpa, apparently) and "Gordo" (Michael Peña), who like many "over there" was just interested in covering his ass.
Keeping this unit together (barely) is Wardaddy. Gaining command of his platoon in typical movie fashion -- his commanding officer gets blown up -- the sergeant walks the line between SPR's battle-fatigued Captain Miller and Cpl. Hicks from Aliens. If he's harsh on his new crewman, at first shockingly so, it's because he sympathizes with the young man's innocence, while at the same time realizing hesitation in the face of battle could mean death for everyone around him.
Ayer pulls few punches in depicting the ugliness of combat, or its aftermath. Soldiers are vaporized, heads are shot off with anti-tank guns, and innocents are snuffed out (or casually abused) with disturbing indifference. Wardaddy's battalion even finds itself fighting children at one point. I've been watching war movies for most of my life, and some of the scenes here were still gut-wrenching.
At times however, Ayer's influences are also a little too easily identifiable. The Platoon parallels are the most obvious, right down to the final shot, while an early scene depicting a recent battlefield was reminiscent of everything from Patton to The Big Red One.
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There was even a war horse. Seriously.
But all that is probably unavoidable when you're making another movie about cinema's most popular war. There's an inevitable familiarity that comes from seeing those dog faces in their Sherman tanks duking out with Nazis, even when the tank battles are agonizingly intense, and the film in question includes the first appearance of a genuine goddamn Tiger tank in a WWII film. Those things were terrifying.
As war movies go, Fury is as grimy and unpleasant as any English-speaking one you're likely to see. It's no Stalingrad or Come and See (and thank Christ for that), the ending is a little too rah rah (for a typist, Norman turns into a hell of a marksman), and Wardaddy's offhand philosophizing ("Ideals are peaceful. History is violent") a bit too on the nose. But the romanticism of war is kept to a minimum. Wardaddy's gradual acceptance of what he is darkly mirrors George C. Scott's "God help me I do love it so," but there's no celebration of the warrior ideal here, just the realization that the war "will end, soon. But before it does, a lot more people have to die."
Fury is in theaters today. I don't know if "tank commander" would be the best job I ever had, but it'd probably edge out "7-11 graveyard shift clerk."