By Bob Garver
Oct. 20, 2014. “Fury” is a brutal war movie that wants to provide a jarring, emotional experience. It succeeds on the first front, though its emotional elements do feel forced. It’s trying to be Oscar bait, but I don’t se it getting many nominations outside of its admittedly impressive sound effects. Audiences are supposed to see it and say, “It’s not pretty, but it’s powerful.” It’s definitely not pretty, but I don’t think it has quite enough redeeming qualities to be considered powerful.
The story follows a five-man tank crew in Germany during World War II. Brad Pitt plays Collier, the leader. Serving under him are characters played by Shia LeBeouf, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal. You’ll probably think of them respectively as the American guy with the mustache, the Mexican guy with the mustache and the guy with the funny hair. LeBeouf is actually quite good here, much more tolerable than he is in “Transformers” and in real life. Pena is a disappointment, doing little more than blending in when he’s usually the best thing about whatever he is doing. It’s Bernthal who steals the show as the most antagonistic member o f the team who believes that his bullying tactics are completely appropriate.
New to the team is Norman (Logan Lerman), a typist randomly assigned to the field. He has no idea what he’s doing and it’s arguable that his incompetence leads to the deaths of fellow soldiers. Yet it’s not an annoying incompetence since it’s clear that he’s simply not ready. The character is meant to be a stand-in for the non-soldiers in the audience who wouldn’t know what to do if they were suddenly thrown on the battlefield.
The crew goes from one battle to another with too little time to lick their wounds in between. The most notable non-battle scene comes in a small German town when Collier and Norman invade the home of two German women and take them prisoner while somewhat forcefully forming a bond with them. There is a lot of tension in this scene, but it would be more impactful if it didn’t go on for what seems like forever.
As for the battle scenes, they are of course the highlight of the movie. You can hear the terror in every gunshot and explosion, and several visceral images make for haunting memories. On the other hand, I can’t say I agree with the film’s decision to track bullets with colorful flares. The last thing this supposedly highly-realistic film needs to be doing is reminding me of “Star Wars.” Also, in the otherwise-epic climactic sequence, it’s a little ridiculous that the enemy soldiers are such poor fighters that our heroes can hold them of in such a drawn-out battle.
What disappointed me most about this movie is that we get very little sense of what it feels like to spend an extended amount of time inside a WWII-era tank. It’s not that we never see the inside of one, but the glimpses that we do get make it appear suspiciously roomy. I never got a true sense of the inevitable discomfort and claustrophobia.
“Fury” is definitely a “gritty” war movie (I’d say dirty, but that would imply something else). Everything is covered in dust, mud and general grim.e It’s even really hard to follow the action in the final battle because there’s so much dirt and smoke in the air. What I’m saying is that it’s an unpleasant movie, not that it claims to be anything else. You have to be in just the right kind of mood to get anything out of “Fury,” but as long as you are, I think you’ll find it to be a decent movie.
Two stars out of five.