By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The tank is called Fury.  So’s the movie.

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And it’s not a movie about fury or glory.  It’s about death.  About avoiding it, about ignoring it, and about dishing it out.

And it’s about the way war brutalizes men, whether there are acts of heroism or sacrifice along the way or not.

 

(2½ stars out of 4)

(2½ stars out of 4)

 

Fury is a combat drama set in April of 1945, during the last month of the European theater of World War II, as the Allies make their final push into Nazi Germany, toward Berlin, where the Germans, although they know they’re about to lose the war, are still battling.

Brad Pitt stars as battle-hardened army sergeant Don Collier, known as Wardaddy, who, as part of the 2nd Armored Division, commands a rusty, cramped, and claustrophobic Sherman tank nicknamed “Fury” — which is scrawled in white along the barrel of its 76mm gun –- and employs a take-no-prisoners, kill-or-be-killed approach that he tries to impart it to his men.

He has promised his five-man crew (the other four played by Shia LeBeouf, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, and Logan Lerman) that he will somehow keep them alive, even though he knows that American tank casualties during the war in Europe are and will continue to be sky-high.

This crew has fought its way from Africa to Belgium and the Netherlands, and from Normandy across the Rhine and into Germany.

They’re on a deadly, not to say impossible, mission well behind enemy lines, where they are ridiculously outnumbered and similarly outgunned.  They may not say it, but they all know that they‘re likely to die just as the Allies are officially declaring victory.

And yet they are forever muttering, “Best job I ever had,” as if to justify their status as sanctioned murderers and war addicts.

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Writer-director David Ayer (Sabotage, End of Watch, Street Kings, Harsh Times), who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning Training Day, has a military background and is attempting a level of authenticity about the furious brutality of warfare that is perhaps best characterized by the opening of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.

That means that beastliness is demonstrated on both sides as the nature of the beast.  Or, as Wardaddy says at one point: “Ideals are peaceful, war is violent.”

But director Ayer pays a price for his concentration on the relentless and bloody combat itself.   It gives us less of a chance to engage with the characters or appreciate performances or contemplate the themes:  the morality of war, the consequences of killing, and the ramifications of surviving.

Still, that action footage is undeniably visceral.

Pitt, who also fought Nazis in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in 2009 and served here as an executive producer, is strongly and appropriately charismatic, but not necessarily likable or even admirable.

The film’s look is gritty and muddy, as it should be; after all, tanks are not exactly the most photogenic vehicles in the world, and there is ugliness of various kinds on display.

But this action drama would have benefitted from a bit less action and a bit more drama and character delineation, so that we were more invested in the outcome.

And yet the one scene in which the action temporarily ceases and the lumbering tank pauses so that we can get to see the soldiers interact with two local women seems highly manufactured and lacks the verisimilitude of most of the combat sequences.

On balance, we’ll roll over 2½ stars out of 4 as we applaud Fury.  For its attempt to come to grips with the conundrum that is human warfare, let’s at least give tanks for the effort.

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