Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review: Fury

It fits easily on the (imaginary) shelf of war-movies I'd like to have as reference for future teenagers to help them understand the severe reality of a world in conflict beyond our present scope of peaceful experience. The only difference between this and other movies I've seen is that you see a lot of the inside of a tank.

As usual, my reviews are almost always plot-spoilers by default.


Could also have been called: Crouching King Tiger, Hidden Panzerwagen

 "That's an SS officer. You kill every one of them you can."
Synopsis: A green-as-grass private gets tapped as a replacement to be the front-gunner in a tank with hardened soldiers, and becomes the only survivor of a one-against-hundreds standoff against an SS platoon.

There's not much to say, so I'll start with basics:

* no sexual nudity. However, numerous references to sexuality and implicit intercourse, mostly confined to a few scenes in particular after a town had been liberated from the Nazis
* of course, there's cursing. Less of it than in Gone Girl, for comparison (Gone Girl was far more profane than most war movies I've seen).
** A younger child might not pick up on the sexuality. But a younger child shouldn't be watching it for the sake of the gruesome deaths depicted, unless (my opinion) he's already been exposed to it through school or other children or the secular media. The longer you can keep them innocent, the better. Pre teens/early teens are probably the most appropriate age (given the culture we're in) to begin showing war movies to.
* there's a few psychologically intense aggressive scenes. Brad Pitt's character forces the rookie to execute a German soldier, and Jon Bernthal's character slaps the rookie around right after the Nazis bomb the town they were in.

That last part is pretty much the main thing I want to highlight. All other aspects of the movie are interesting in the sense of warfare tactics and getting a broader concept of the dynamics of a prolonged invasion. But the middle of the movie was a bit confusing, initially. Almost like a detour.

Brad Pitt and the rookie go visit with a woman and her cousin (who he sees through a window) and the film devotes many minutes to a real-time portrayal of the tension when they first arrive, to Pitt washing himself, and to setting the table and eating. The rest of the tank crew comes in and act upset that they were left out, and misbehave in various 'passive'-aggressive ways. Michael Peña's character tells a story about how it took them three days to bury the dead and shoot horses amid flies on a battlefield earlier in the war. Jon Bernthal's character tells the rookie he should "share" the girl he met, which Pitt replies to by threatening to break his teeth. Bernthal then spits on the girl's food. Much of the cinematography shows awkward silences. Nevertheless, it was clearly intended to show that the rookie and the girl made friends, and had a bit of pleasantness and hope amid the war, to be uplifted by.

And then as soon as they walk outside, artillery or rockets impact the town and the girl is buried, clearly dead, in the rubble of her building. Rookie loses it, screaming and punching Bernthal's character who almost selflessly, in a strange way, instigates him to punch him in the face, and then grabs him tight and shouts in his ear, "that's WAR!"

While it likely wasn't Pitt's character's expectation that they would die, his choices and Bernthal's seemed to conspire to make the rookie suffer loss so that he would become battle-hardened like they, and finally want to kill Germans.

That seemed to be the purpose for the uncomfortably long dinner scene. As setting the backdrop for, and helping the audience empathize with, the rookie's loss so that they would understand his anger, and so that they would understand the hatred/will to fight that drove the tank crew to risk their lives to kill their enemies so that others would have the chance to live.

Viscerally feeling disgust and anger over the evil things others do is one way war movies (and to some extent action movies, but usually less confrontationally) do to help you get into the mindset and understand that an action is justified, or at least rational. Fury did this effectively, on a very personal scale.

~ Rak Chazak

PS As an afterthought, this was the only example I've seen in years of a secular movie making a distinction between going to church and being saved. It's right there in the dialogue when "Bible," Shia LaBeouf's character, first meets the rookie. It might surprise you to see it on the screen. If it turned out that it didn't do superbly at the box office, then I would suspect the open religious language between the characters to be the most likely culprit. In this society, no one wants to see people quote Bible verses as if it's a reliable document. They want to see bad guys misquote Scripture so they can hate them better, they don't want them to use Isaiah to comfort each other before a battle in which they would likely die. That's my suspicion.

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