Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Tanks! For the memories! OK, dumb pun out of the way, Fury is the latest film written and directed by David Ayer (End of Watch). Ayer also co-wrote and directed (and regretted) the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Sabotage, but now he's back in the saddle with this tale of a WWII tank crew captained by Brad Pitt.

Ayer is excellent at creating movies about male relationships, and Fury is a tour-de-force of war-forged brotherhood, as this squad of men have fought together in this crappy old American tank for years.

The story is that, at the end of the war, a tank crew are part of the final push toward Berlin and, as the movie opens, they've lost one of their team. The replacement they get isn't just young, but not even combat trained—just a warm body that the Army has thrown into the mix.

This is, essentially, a road picture, probably moreso than a war movie. It's a series of vignettes showing how the new kid becomes one of the team as the tank moves from place to place, less about any tactical or strategic goal. As such it's very good. (End of Watch had a similar form, as I recall.)

I heard some people sort of dismissing it over moral ambiguity but I actually didn't find it to be particularly ambiguous. The stakes are high, so just as a brief hesitation can result in innocent deaths, one can't really apply non-wartime rules (particularly regarding the sanctity of life) to the situations the crew comes across.

Or, maybe I'm just a monster.

Anyway, I get the idea that Ayer throws these situations out there not for us to judge, but to get us into the mindset, which builds toward the Desperate Act of Heroism in the third act. You gotta understand the mindset, the bond, the Band of Brothers thing, for it to make sense.

Emotionally, I mean. As a practical matter the third act is kind of goofy. Ayer overplays his hand by showing us a massive battalion of super-Nazis with anti-tank weapons, against Our Boys and their one, badly damaged tank.

I didn't mind that much. It wasn't really the point, and if you could get past the improbability of it all, it's good, gripping action with characters that have been well established by that point. And, much like End of Watch, it's Manly.

I'm cool with that. We're lucky to get an unapologetically Manly picture in any given year.

Acting is good. It's probably my favorite (recent) Brad Pitt role. Shia LaBeouf is in it, and I didn't even recognize him. He's not in his typical typecasted role as a weenie, and he can act, I think, given a reason to. Michael Pena (End of Watch, American Hustle) and Jon Bernthal (the World's Worst Best Friend from "The Walking Dead") make up the cruder element of the crew. Logan Lerman (Perks of Being a Wallflower, 3:10 to Yuma) plays the kid.

Anamaria Vinca (of the harrowing 4 Months, Three Weeks, Two Days) plays guardian to a young fraulein Alicia von Rittberg (Barbara) during the very weird and tense "romantic interlude" vignette.

It's good. Entertaining without being glib. Enough gore (some would say too much) to keep it from being a romp but not so much (in the post-Saving Private Ryan sense) that it rubs your nose in it. A little over-the-top heroism.

Definitely worth seeing. Maybe not up to End of Watch standards (although The Boy didn't recall Watch being that great and claimed to like this better), but far better than the regrettable Sabotage. And by far better, I mean, Ayer admits to regretting doing that as a "work-for-hire" thing.

To which I say: Good. He has a unique voice. Let's hope he keeps using it.

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