Response Journal: Fury (2014)

“It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.” – Robert E. Lee

If Fury director David Ayer is so convinced of war’s awfulness why does he also seem so damn fond of it? In the last days of World War II an American tank commander (Brad Pitt) leads a crew comprised of shallow genre stereotypes—a religious guy (Shia LaBeouf), an ethnic guy (Michael Pena), a vulgar guy (Jon Bernthal) and a new guy (Logan Lerman)—as they rumble through bombed-out Germany. Lerman’s hastened arc from a wan puking rookie to a hardened Nazi-killer extraordinaire provides some semblance of narrative structure, though all the characters are unlikable, appear closer to a band of pirates than a band of brothers and drop more mumbled platitudes than machine gun shells. The only good scene is when they confront a superior German tank and the two behemoths circle one-another in an armored combat waltz. The most ambitious sequence, however, occurs immediately before in an awkward attempt at quieter human drama when the men sit down for eggs and coffee with two petrified fraulein hostages. It’s heavy-handed at best and hateful at worst since the only aspect of humanity David Ayer really wants to explore is our entrails. Feebly aspiring to match the apocalyptic air of Ingmar Bergman’s Shame and the visceral carnage of Saving Private Ryan, Ayer’s picture is nothing besides dung-ugly exploitation with so much gratuitous violence (a man commits suicide to end the pain of burning alive, civilians hanged from power lines decorate the roadside, bulldozers shovel heaps of dismembered corpses into mass graves) and tastelessly morose production design (somber skies, fields chewed into muddy pits, wrecked smoking vehicles). Sure everything serves to remind that war is hell, but not all wars are the same and zero insights on this particular conflict are ever opined which dooms Fury to resolute bleak pointlessness. That description, while apt for many historical events, is one no movie should ever proudly advertise.

Costarring Jason Isaacs. Cinematography by Roman Vasyanov.


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