Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Fury is writer-director David Ayer's angry, resigned warsong and it's a rough ride, but one well worth carving out time to see.

Ayer likes war/police stories, having Training Day, U-571, and Dark Blue to his credit as a writer. With Fury, he takes on a story seldom told - set at what will be the end of WW2, audiences are painfully reminded that the soldiers don't know how long the tail-end of the war will drag on and, in the meantime, they're tasked with achieving the objectives set for them by others who aren't living in the small, foul-smelling steel box known as a Sherman tank and, by the way, those objectives involve killing the other guy before he has a chance to kill you. Living in such a pressure cooker will fundamentally change who you are, or at least who you were, and into this atmosphere the audience is thrust through the character of Norman Ellison. (By the way, I love the name. "Norman" sounds an awful lot like "Normal" and "Ellison" makes him sound like the child of Ellis Island, the famous "gateway to America" immigration point.) Norman didn't train as a tank gunner; he was supposed to type 60 wpm as a clerk, but it's the end of the war and we're running out of soldiers, so off he goes.

The crew of the Fury has been together since the tank battles of North Africa (roughly late 1942) and their sergeant, nicknamed "Wardaddy" (played by Brad Pitt with a subtlety that reminded me that Pitt is capable of great things in his acting), promised to bring them all home. The death of their gunner and the introduction of Norman has upended the status quo. Further, they really don't have time to train a greenie, whose hesitation could easily get all of them killed. All of the main cast deserves accolades (yes, even Shia LaBeouf, who went very publicly off the rails lately), but Pitt and Logan Lerman (who plays Norman) are absolute standouts. Lerman is best known for playing the title role in the Percy Jackson franchise and for his role as Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but this is the sort of role that generates major awards buzz, and well it should. Seeing Norman's transformation is both uplifting (we don't want him to get killed) and horrific (how can such a nice boy get so merciless?) and we can't look away.

Make no mistake - Fury is a tough movie to watch. It's brutal in its depiction of violence and what that can do to even a good man. Yet I also think Fury is a movie that needs to be watched. We're very used to a comfortable fairy tale about WW2 - namely, that American soldiers were all good, kind, decent men who did what they had to do to save the free world and then came home to adulation and kisses from nurses in Times Square before returning to good, sturdy jobs and American prosperity.

Crap and fewmets, and believing such codswallop disrepects every soldier who ever served.

Yes, it involves bravery and honor, but war is primarily blood, violence, bad food, cold mud, desperate prayers, and constantly living hyped-up on the edge of insanity. When you go to see Fury (and you should), notice who rides the white horses and who lets who live when it really is to their advantage to not do so. Battle is complicated and sometimes the narrative is so snarled that we just say, "Forget it" and crown the last one standing who's wearing our uniform a hero.

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