I did something I hadn’t done in years: see a movie while traveling on business. Fury, the Brad Pitt film about an American Sherman tank crew in WWII, fit the notion perfectly – a violent war movie that my wife wouldn’t be upset at missing. As a bonus, the particular theater had reclining seats with footrests. Nice.
At some point in my early years, I enjoyed playing with army soldiers which I’d set up all over the floor and nearby furniture, then topple pretending they were being shot by each other, toy airplanes or tanks. It must have been great fun, because I had a giant bin of soldiers and did this again and again.
Then along came comic books. In addition to all the superhero comics was G.I. Combat.
This was a strange comic that featured the crew of a “haunted” tank, but central was Jeb, the commander, who had somewhat advantageous warnings from Jeb Stuart, the ghost of the Civil War general, about what was to come, as well as a tidy moralistic discussion at the end. You never knew what kind of story might be next.
Some years later, Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising” and Larry Bond’s “Red Phoenix” novels appear, with an updated view (at the time...) of tank sophistication. Good reading.
In any case, tanks were cool. And now there’s a movie about a tank in an age where special effects can handle the “like being there” surreal-ity.
Brad Pitts plays Don “Wardaddy” Collier, the commander. He and his crew are veterans and fortunate and/or deserving survivors of many battles. He’s a hardened, demanding soldier who is confident, pragmatic and desensitized to what war requires. Then along comes Norman, and with a name like that, would you expect anything other than a squeaky clean and naive crew replacement?
“Wait til you see what a man can do to another man.”
What follows is predictable, both in action sequences and in the plot line that almost avoids symbolism but can’t help itself... from the start. Ultimately, Norman reminds Collier of the humanity he’s seemingly lost, and any half-witted literature major can make up what the ending means, and they would probably all be right.
“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”
Some have hinted that this is the “best” WWII movie ever. It’s not. Or it’s the most graphic. Perhaps. Saving Private Ryan is a formidable foe in both regards. But what is apparent is that without today’s tech wizardry, operating a tank and firing accurately in a crisis requires teamwork, bravery, luck, and a lot of fear. Still, I’d rather be in one than outside of one. And... as the opening script foreshadows, even better if it’s a German Tiger.
(but I enjoyed it more)