Movie review: 'Fury' worth the price of admission

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(7 out of 10 stars)

 

(134 Minutes, Rated R for graphic war scenes and violence, sexual situations, and language.)

If you are pining for a rip-roaring, good old fashioned World War II movie, take yourself to see Brad Pitt’s newest movie — and the current number one box office film — “Fury.”

I must admit this genre is perhaps of my favorite. While this particular film lands on the scale somewhere between “Saving Private Ryan” and any number of John Wayne films, “Fury” is certainly worth your movie dollar.

Set in the waning days of World War II somewhere in the countryside of Germany, the story opens with a five-man Sherman tank crew needing to replace one of their recently fallen brethren. The crew is led by wizened and battle-tested Wardaddy (that’s really his nickname) played by the suddenly-showing-his-age Brad Pitt. In the opening moments of the movie, Pitt is given the freshest-faced and newest recruit to the European theater, Norman, played brilliantly by the exceedingly talented Logan Lerman in what could be, however, one of the most cornball setups in recent memory. 

Norman, of course, barely looks 16, and was, of course, trained by the Army as a typist, and, of course, has never shot at or killed another soldier. My first thought was, “who the heck did he make mad to draw this assignment?” but once you get past eye-rolling cliches and predictable “that’s the U.S. Army” lines, the movie settles in quite nicely.

At first, I was not quite certain as to what theme writer and director, David Ayer (“Training Day” and “Fast and Furious”) was seeking in his film — nor do I think did he. Most war films tend to devolve into a horrors-of-war saga that can become rather predictable while audience members quickly become bored and play the who-gets-killed-next game.

While this film is exceedingly graphic in many places, it is not gratuitous, and did not attempt to beat the audience over the head with the violence angle. Instead it became a study of human behavior in war and how men in close proximity and who depend upon other men for their survival act and live with each other.

There are tense moments — a few almost Tarantino-esque — in which we wonder about the character and quality of each man inside this machine. Gratefully, the filmmakers give us a nice arc of storyline for us to make up our own minds, and moreover decide how we might act if put in a similar situation.

The acting in this film is top-notch and Brad Pitt is as good as ever, although I’m not sure a man his age would be inside a Sherman tank in April 1945. Logan Lerman (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Percy Jackson”), as I stated, was exceptional in his role of the fresh-faced draftee. I fully believed his initial terror and his transformation into a soldier by movie’s end.  Lerman is blessed with an expressive face and has mastered the art of letting the audience see his thoughts in his eyes and expressions before he blurts them out.

Rounding out a true ensemble cast is Shia LaBeouf, who may well have resurrected his career, Michael Pena, and Jon Bernthal of “Walking Dead” fame. Each brought a subtle and layered persona to the film, and while having a Spanish-speaking Mexican native in a non-integrated 1945 U.S. Army may well have been a stretch, any narrative or exploration of race relations thankfully never developed.

The cinematography and war scenes are excellent, and the CGI and sound effect experts did a remarkable job in recreating the tension of war. Of course, if you see this film in Peoria, I highly recommend the sound and visual superiority of Carmike Grand Prairie 18+.  I was only disappointed by the fact I could not see this movie in IMAX, but that was incidental.

I know World War II history well and I was worried that Ayers might take liberties in order to accomplish the many elements he needed, but I am thankful to report he did not. By 1945 Hitler’s armies were defeated, but it is important to note they fought their hardest once the Allies crossed into German territory. That was depicted in the film. Moreover, the Wehrmacht by April 1945 was either a division of rag-tag group of old men and boys who surrendered by the tens of thousands, or a division of elite SS soldiers who were still the best fighting force in the world. This, too, was nicely depicted.

One of the highlights of the movie was a tank battle between American Sherman tanks and a German Tiger tank and it got the superior speed and maneuverability of the Sherman tank against the devastating firepower and insanely thick armor of the Tiger. In fact, the movie highlights and uses the actual last working Tiger tank in the world, and it really is quite interesting to watch the scene develop.

Please do not let me mislead you. This film will not go down in the annals of great war movies.  It is full of plot holes and the final scene is a bit difficult to believe, but fortunately the moviemaker has accomplished well what he set out to do. 

And that is more often than not a rarity in Hollywood these days.

I give this film 7 out of 10 stars.

 

About the Author
Who was that mysterious man you saw in the theater last night? You tried to get a look at him but he quickly disappeared in a puff of smoke, his cackle trailing in the air, leaving behind his calling card: a half-eaten box of popcorn and a lukewarm soda. He is Our Movie Reviewer named Tim!