Fury (2014) – Movie Review

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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 wolittle_green_army_menuldn’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.

downloadBut... the tanks were where the action was at.  Buying a bag of army men included a variety of artillery, and I had to make sure the bag had a tank in it.  I had a bunch.

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.

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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.

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3 of 5 STARS


   (but I enjoyed it more)

 

 

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3 comments :

  1. I can relate to your childhood having done it similarly. Problem was that the figures were never accurate enough for me (wife always bitches about me criticizing a movie when they use wrong weapons or ammunition). When I had enough money from my lawn cutting jobs, I bought a set of Civil War soldiers because they had proper firearms and mess kits. The canons, which were also period, would actually shoot a lead projectile (oh my, what would the CPSC say today about that?) so you could get actual casualties.
    But I always loved tanks. For a while, I read the comics with Jeb, but at some point, he was riding an M3 Stewart and those tanks were not very powerful. Actually, they were light recon tanks. Meh. I wanted Tigers and Panthers, oh my!
    Then again, the toy makers failed me. No one wanted to repro any non-USA tanks. So I eventually switched to planes as companies were coming out with quite accurate planes of all of the WWII combatants.
    Over time, I realized that no one would show a German tank in their movies. They did not survive peace. The movie Patton, which I really enjoy and recommend, took US tanks and painted them with black crosses. One of the closest attempts to having a real WWII German tank, and a Tiger at that, was Kelly’s Heroes. Filmed in Yugoslavia, they took chassis from the ever present Soviet built T34 series and built a superstructure that closely resembled that of a Tiger (I can hear my wife now).
    At some point, the fad wore off. War is a bloody mess and being a tanker is really tough. I read enough stories from soldiers whose job was to “clean out” a tank that survived a battle, but some or none of the crew did not. Not only could one get disfigured, but they could burn. In the air war, one could get disfigured and burn or freeze!
    I find their choice of using a Tiger predictable. The most common German tank was the PZKW IV, most likely Ausf. H. The best tank, and perhaps the best tank of the war was the PZKW V (Panther). More agile, reliable, and faster, the Panther was a real scourge.
    But the Tiger. The Tiger. There was nothing on the Eastern, Western, African, or Italian front that brought up fear than when it was mentioned that a Tiger tank was out there.
    Pat yourself on your back. You may have actually got me to go out and watch a movie that has Brad Pitt in it! But for me, it will be to see Tiger 131 strut its stuff.
    You know, it took balls to bring that behemoth out. One fuel line bursting or a botched fueling and a (priceless) piece of history is gone. It is like flying the last B-17.

    Thanks!

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  2. Finally got to watch “Fury.” It was not under the best circumstances. We were flying back from Seattle and there were screaming kids in the vicinity. The headphones took care of that!

    I would have to say that I was half expecting a “Memphis Belle” story where we would cover the journey of one tank through a part of the war. Instead, it was rather formulaic. Tanks with infantry fought infantry and anti-guns, check. Tanks had a difficult go at it in towns, check. It took four or more Sherman tanks to best one Tiger, check.

    The crew was an interesting thing as well. Was the use of Michael Peña a nod to minorities? The army was not integrated, so you would not find an African American in a white crew. It is not likely that the army would use a Hispanic as a driver. The driver position required a great deal of training. A stripped gear at the bottom of a ditch or a stalled tank could mean certain death for the occupants. I don’t think the army of the 40s would go for anything less than a white crew. It is a sad thing, but that was then.

    Not having seen Inglourious Basterds, I wondered if the ending of the movie was a Brad Pitt thing or perhaps more of a “Rat Patrol” thing, except that good guys die as well. The level of destruction was impressive, even by 1960s standards (“Guns of Navarone” and “The Dirty Dozen”).

    Your comment on graphic/gore was also on the spot. I am still torn between the use of blood packs or imagination. If a man puts a 1911 against their head and pulls the trigger, do I need to see brain matter fly out to believe it? Most likely not.

    Having said all that, one should not take a big negative impression from my viewing. This is perhaps one of two real tanker movies. The first tanker movie came out in 1943 and was named “Sahara” with the lead star being none other than Humphrey Bogart. The all-white crew became integrated by taking in a Sudanese soldier (Rex Ingram) and then later adopting an Italian (Carrol Naish) when it was decided he was more ally than axis. The Germans were just as bad, but unlike Fury, did finally surrender.

    So I would give the movie almost four stars out of five, mostly due to its attempt at depicting a tanker’s life. It was a hard lot, and whether or not you were the commander or the bow gunner, your chance of living through an encounter was not that great.

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