Fury (2014) Capsule Review
Ah, January can be a cruel mistress can’t she? In the movie industry cycle it is notoriously awards season time, when the multiplexes are flooded with the studios desperate attempts to gain some artistic kudos. Nestled among the cavalcade of ‘worthy’ product, the inspiring tales of overcoming adversity and the triumph of the human spirit are a few genuine pearls, and I’d strongly recommend both Whiplash and Foxcatcher if you are looking for something to see. This programming does make me a victim of my own success however, as I’ve already seen all these prestige movies at the LFF, so I’m left with a desperate rearguard maneuver, mopping up resistance to pictures I failed to occupy in the previous months. This leads me to Fury, the World War II tank action picture from David Ayer, leading a strong contingent after 2012’s surprisingly effective End Of Watch. Brad Pitt leads a rag-tag unit of filthy war-exhausted reprobates through the dying embers of the European theatre of conflict, all seen through the eyes of green recruit Private Ellison (an outgunned Logan Lerman), alongside comrades Michael Peña, the bastard from The Walking Dead, and ‘face of beef‘;
The reviews were somewhat mixed with some deep concerns over a certain tense sequence of domestic incongruity – at one point the crew having liberated a village have dinner with two German girls with the threat of rape hanging in the air – it is quite a misjudged sequence which is obliterated with a final act landmine which disrupts the entire mission. Initially, at least visually, the film is faintly impressive, it has abandoned the bleached shaky-cam aesthetic that Saving Private Ryan blitzkrieged the genre with for the past twenty years, opting for a deeper, inky hellscape of choking smoke, putrefying corpses and shattered villages, a despairing fidelity to reality which pierces the soul like a Hieronymus Bosch triptych. The plot is episodic as Pvt. finds his innocence stained with the depths of human barbarity and cruelty on both sides of the conflict, a typical screenwriter conceit to draw the audience into the horror through the mindset of the noob, and the film certainty has a couple of impressively mounted sequences. No doubt director David Ayer was drawn to the material due to the similar testosterone pumping through End OF Watch, of men in harsh and lethal circumstances deepening their comradeship and professional regard for each other, a bromance with life or death definitions;
It’s a war crime then that a fairly affecting film is utterly obliterated in the films final act, as a slightly more nuanced and almost biblical take on the war movie raising some troubling moral questions takes the path of least resistance. In the last half-hour Fury tramples through enemy lines to re-enforce the insulting three-act structure, climaxing with a big action scene pay-off, an absurd and unnecessary suicidal stand-off against superior Wehrmacht forces. This is pure Hollywood whimsy of the most debase sort, horrifying in its insult to the audience given the realism, horror and thought of what has come before, complete with ‘A Team’ improvisation and a stirring chorus as the music swells – bleurgh. It’s a shame as the shrapnel of a fairly decent movie was here, detonated by the demands of a $70 million A List starring picture, as the smoke clears the only real casualty is Pitt and Ayers dramatic credibility.