This weekend, I went to go see the new Brad Pitt movie Fury, or as I’ll call it:
TANK PORN: THE MOVIE
Fury follows the crew of the titular M4 Sherman tank during the waning years of WWII. After losing their assistant driver, an untrained rookie named Norman (played by Logan Lerman) joins their ranks and is thrust into the brutality of war. The crew, who have been together for three long years since the North Africa Campaign, is initially reluctant to accept Norman, but eventually they all become one big happy family scalping Nazis.
Aldo Raine jokes aside, Fury is a visceral and raw war film punctuated by intense action and surprisingly astounding performances. Please note: From here on out there will be spoilers. I will do them TV Tropes style, so in order to view them, you’ll have to highlight them.
I mentioned up top that Fury is tank porn- it is. They clearly put a lot of research into it, and that adds a ton to the film. By nature of its design, a good tank crew had to be a family. Most people don’t know how much coordination goes into manning one- the battle scenes come off as a well-orchestrated ballet. Those scenes are absolutely intense as well, I couldn’t tell you the last time a movie’s fight scenes actually got my heart racing. So, congrats to Fury for that. All of the tanks used were actual operational WWII-era tanks (no CGI or clever mock-up), including both Fury and the very first appearance by a Tiger in motion picture history.
The Tiger I was essentially the Bogey-Man of World War II, it was the German heavy tank and tore a horrific swath through pretty much anything it encountered. The United States’ tank, the M4 Sherman, was a screaming metal deathtrap (the life expectancy for a Sherman crew was 6 weeks). They were made on the cheap and the only reason that they were useful is that we could crank them out quicker than the Germans could wreck them.
The Tiger I, however, packed a walloping 88mm main gun, and armor thick enough to bounce most other tank shells off of. Unfortunately, not many were produced (compare 1,347 Tigers produced and deployed to 53,500 Shermans), and once we learned how to Zerg-rush them, not a lot survived the war. And outside of war news reels and German propaganda, an actual Tiger tank was never in a film (usually they used old Soviet tanks that were mocked up to look like Tigers). In fact, there’s only one operational Tiger left in the world… and Fury just so happened to be filming right near the museum that housed it. The battle scene between four Shermans and one Tiger is one of the coolest and most exhilarating things I have seen in a very very long time, and if nothing else, it’s worth seeing the movie just for that.
But Fury is more than just realism and action, it has quite a bit of surprisingly quiet moments with subtle, yet powerful performances. Of particular note are Shia LeBouf, Logan Lerman, and Brad Pitt. Now, a lot of people have made Aldo Raine Inglorious Basterds jokes about Pitt in another Nazi-Slaying movie, but his performance as Don “Wardaddy” Collier was complex and moving.
On the surface, Wardaddy seems just like Aldo Raine, macho, tough, and unflinching. But beneath that scarred grimace and that weird hair lies a damaged and brutally traumatized individual. It was actually refreshing and surprising to see Wardaddy actually sneak away from his crew to just break down. He’s noble at times, monstrous at others. SPOILERS AHOY! HIGHLIGHT TO READ In one scene he forcibly makes Norman shoot a captive German soldier in the back in order to break him of his innocence. In the next, after taking a town, Wardaddy offers two German women eggs and chocolate and protects them from his drunken comrades. END SPOILERS. The movie is more of a character study masquerading as an explosion-fest.
Shia “Stanley Yelnats” LeBouf was by far the most surprising performance in the film. Now, I’m not going to comment on his history of horrible films, or his blatant plagiarism (even his plagiarism apologies are plagiarized), but underneath it all I believe that he can actually be a good actor when given a decent script and a competent director. And under the direction of David Ayer, LeBouf shines as a devout christian Boyd “Bible” Swan.
Unfortunately, the movie does stray towards cliche at some moments. SPOILERS AHOY! HIGHLIGHT TO READ! From the moment I saw the trailer, I knew that when Fury gets the mission to hold the crossroads, it was going to be a last stand with only the rookie getting out alive and with Wardaddy sacrificing himself to save him after having a heart-to-heart conversation. Indeed that’s exactly what happens, but the quiet moments before and during make it a lot easier to swallow. END SPOILERS. But it’s a pretty minor complaint for the movie.
All in all, if you’re not bothered by gruesome depictions of war, you should go check out Fury. It is intense, thrilling, powerful, yet brutal.
I can’t wait…
In the meantime, be sure to check out my other column Trope-ic Thunder, where I discuss science tropes in the media.
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