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 Post subject: David Ayer: Fury (2014)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 6:11 pm 
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World War II action in a tank: straight, no chaser

If ever there was a maker of macho movies it's David Ayer, whose experiences of hard knocks growing up in South Central Los Angeles and serving in the Marines at 18 inform the films he's written (like Fast and Furious and Training Day) and directed, like Harsh Times, Street Kings, and End of Watch, where he finally broke into higher critical ratings. The latter costared Michael Peña, who's in the Sherman tank dubbed "Fury" fighting Germans outnumbered in Germany with Brad Pitt, Shia LaBoeuf, Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman. It's hard to describe Fury. It seems like an utterly conventional World War II action movie that might have been made at any time. But that is not true. It's more intense, harsh, and honest than those conventional movies. It lacks their gloss or their fancy framework. It just sort of begins. It has one or two passages that could have been in a great European war film. It's probably aware of Tarantino, though Pitt's Nazi-killer here has none of the genre-wink panache of Inglourious Basterds and is to be taken straight. I can give it no higher praise than to say that though we shift sides, the final to-the-death battle sequence brought to mind one of the rarest and most powerful of all World War II films, Bernhard Wicki's 1959 The Bridge (Die Brücke).

Like The Bridge, Fury takes place in 1945 when Germany is overrun. But Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Pitt), who has fought with these men, now minus one, in Africa and in France, has now been sent deep into Germay, and the enemy is all around. Joining "Bible" (LaBoeuf) -- "Wardaddy" can match him quoting scripture, but "Wardaddy" can also speak German; "Gordo" (Peña) and "Coon-Ass" (Bernthal) -- is a very green replacment, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). He's a fresh-faced, unready boy, trained as a clerk-typist, with no knowledge of weapons and tanks or stomach for them. He has to clean pieces of his predecessor out of the space in the tank he will occupy.

There are only two sequences that matter but they are so well done they are hard to forget. In the first, after a battle to take a German town in which Norman learns in spite of himself to kill Krauts and take pleasure in it and in being part of this exceptionally intimate team, he spends some time upstairs in a house with "Wardaddy" and two young German women. It's a rare beautiful moment, though edged with uneasiness and complexity, at least for Norman, in which he beds the prettier of the women, while "Wardaddy" washes up and has eggs cooked up. Then "Bible," "Gordo," and "Coon-Ass" come up, drunk on fatigue and war-lust, and make a pretty nasty scene.

In the other long sequence first the crew have their support tanks wiped out beside them by German tanks and then, moving forward alone in their assignment to hold off German troop movements and protect the Allied supply line, they're caught nearly off guard and fight a lonely stand. It would be wrong to reveal all that happens in this action, but it's probably better than any other film about tank warfare shot from inside a tank.

In human terms, each character is given traditional rough ethnic or regional edges, and LaBoeuf redeems himself for his bad behavior and bad roles with a performance as serious and committed as any here. The essential roles belong to Pitt and especially to Lerman. The latter showed exceptional talent in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is a very different role with intense physical challenges for a mere boy who survives a baptism of fire to become the bravest of the brave. You can say all this has been done before, except that's never true when it's done this well.

Fury, 134 mins., is scheduled to play in a hundred or more countries. It entered theaters in the US 17 October 2014. It's gotten decent reviews (Metacritic 64%), but deservesdbetter.

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