Monday, 27 October 2014

Fury (2014) - Movie Review

In the words of one of my favourite actors: "War. War never changes." The same is true for movies about war; more times than not, they deal with the adverse effects going through war can have on the soldiers and how endless the fighting is. Not saying that these bad points to bring up, just that they can be extremely stale if not handled correctly because we’ve no doubt seen such points brought up before. Fury, I have to admit, handles things far better than the trailers would have you think.

Fury follows Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (played by Brad Pitt), who commands the titular war tank, and his platoon as they play their role in the attack on Nazi Germany by the Allies. The plot is more episodic than following a strict narrative; that scene where the tank breaks down that looks like it’s the focus of the entire movie? That happens during the final reel, so there’s a lot that the trailer doesn’t clue you in on… with good reason.

This film doesn’t shy away at all when it comes to violence: It’s bloody, visceral, almost primal how it shows the soldiers and the frequently gory ways that they get killed in battle. It shows a lot of the grimmer atrocities of the war as well: Mass graves, child soldiers, hanging of deserters as warnings (some of whom ARE child soldiers); this is some seriously bleak material that some audiences may not have the stomach for. Actually, it might be a little TOO full-on, and I’m not just talking for myself here: One of the film’s technical advisors Don Evans, who himself was a tank gunner in WWII, said (In an interview with the New York Times) that some of the scenes were more full-on than anything he experienced on the front line. However, as much as I would love to just condemn the film for using WWII as fodder for “America, fuck yeah!” action scenes, it’s not that simple.

If there’s one thing I wasn’t expecting out of this, it’s how we don’t necessarily get any clear-cut heroes or villains in this fight; just two different sides fighting each other. Now, I know that making Nazis sympathetic is virtually impossible, but we don’t quite get that either. Instead, we simply get the soldiers for both Germany and the Allies operating under the mantra of ‘kill-or-be-killed’; simple as that. Hell, if I’m being honest, the most sympathetic character in the entire movie isn’t even Wardaddy or any of his soldiers; it’s one of the SS soldiers who shows mercy on Norman (played by Logan Lerman) by not shooting him dead.

Our main characters aren’t shown entirely as patriotic heroes doing what’s right, nor are they shown entirely as bloodthirsty monsters that have been warped by the great dehumanizer that is World War II; they are shown as human beings whom have been through a lot of shit. They crack jokes occasionally, they look out for each other, they do dumb things sometimes but they don’t threaten to shoot each other for it (Unless it’s actually detrimental to their mission); they are all well-rounded, save for Grady who spends most of the runtime as a complete asshole, and well performed.

This was a definite surprise, given how one of the soldiers, Bible, is played by Shia LaBullshitArtist (Yeah, I have NO patience for this guy under normal circumstances). But even he gives a good performance as the team’s devout Christian, using the old line about how they’re doing God’s work to ease his conscience about what he has to do on the front line. Both Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman give exceptional performances as Wardaddy and Norman, with the former showing the tough but scarred in more ways than one platoon leader and the latter showing the ‘baptism of fire’ character arc of a soldier’s first time in battle and the effect it has on him. One jaw-droppingly good scene between these two is when Wardaddy is trying to help Norman get over the fact that, in war, he will need to kill people. I won’t spoil it, but it’s gut-wrenching stuff.

If there’s one thing that I can nitpick about this movie so that this review isn’t complete ass-kissing, aside from how vile Grady is in some scenes, it’s the bullet effects. Whose bright idea was it to make the bullet trails look like lasers like this is one of the darker episodes of Doctor Who? Not only that, they’re colour-coded: Red for the Allies and green for the Nazis. For as gritty as this film gets, nothing will pull you out of it quicker than thinking that the projectionist fucked up and put on a sci-fi action movie by mistake. It doesn’t happen all the time, as some of the effects look fine (and the gore effects are chillingly well done), but then it’ll suddenly turn into Stormtrooper combat with better aim. It’s very disjointed, and its infrequency makes me think that this was some practical joke in the editing room, but it can be overlooked because of how good the rest of it is.

All in all, this is an exceptionally good movie. It’s bloody, it’s dark but it’s human, for better or worse.

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