Monday, October 20, 2014

Movie with Abe: Fury

Directed by David Ayer
Released October 17, 2014

War is a frequent setting in film. There are many different aspects of military conflicts and international disputes that can be encompassed within a film. Some present the whole picture, including governmental negotiations and political happenings at the top level, while others opt for staying focused on the battlefield itself. “Fury” revisits what may well be the most cinema-adapted war, World War II, and confines itself to one particularly claustrophobic setting: the inside of a tank. The result is a deeply intense film that uses the harsh effects of war to get to know its characters and make their journey an emotional and powerful one.

“Fury” doesn’t bother to introduce its characters at the start of the film, instead letting them speak to each other in shorthand dialogue as a way of announcing their presence. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) leads a team that includes Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), and Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf). Their fifth member lies dead in the tank in the middle of a destroyed and abandoned field, and his replacement comes when the team arrives back at their camp in the form of Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a clerk typist thrown into the heart of war with neither the knowledge of how to fire a gun nor the ability to set his mind to the notion of killing, setting him up for a rough orientation with his gruff, hardened team and their charismatic leader.

At first, “Fury” seems like a generic war movie that is telling a specific story but isn’t meant to be individualistic. Gradually, that changes as Collier, driven equally by a desire to protect his men and a desire to kill Nazis, and Ellison, forced to grow up just hours after he enters a tank for the first time, are thrown into situations that test their humanity and reveal the instability of war and everyone that lies in its path. Collier’s visit, with Ellison in tow, to the home of two young German women in a town that has just been taken by Allied forces, proves to be the film’s most resounding non-battle scene, showing people in the midst of war giving a rare moment of relief and the brief chance to return to normalcy.

While war wages and the team is in the tank, the gore surrounding them is often gratuitous in a way that doesn’t feel entirely necessary, and the film succeeds most when it manages to capture a glimpse of human nature rather than just blood or exploding body parts. Pitt has played this kind of role before, and Bernthal, Pena, and LaBeouf are all respectable and competent choices for their parts. It’s Lerman, however, who first got his start on the WB’s short-lived “Jack and Bobby,” who delivers the most memorable and dynamic performance as the film’s empathetic figure. The film’s title refers to the name of the tank, but it’s also a fitting description of the reality and irreversibility of war as demonstrated in this solid and occasionally starring war movie.


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