One Liner Review:
The action during tank battles is usually pretty cool, but the story and characters are weak, and even that great action does get a little tiring after a while.
Fury is a movie about tank battles. More specifically it’s about the U.S. armed forces on their final leg of World War II after they had been fighting for years in Europe and now made it into Germany. The movie is focussed on the crew of a single tank, called Fury. That crew has five members to it, including Seargent in command, Brad Pitt, and also your token newcomer to the squad, played by Logan Lerman. The tank battles are pretty cool, and there’s some pretty great action here, but outside of that, the movie doesn’t have much to offer. The characters aren’t anything great, and the story is far from creative.
Fury was just an okay movie. It’s a movie about a tank crew and the battles they get into, and considering that there has never really been a movie like that before (at least not in the past four decades or so), it’s something kind of unique. On top of that, the movie was directed by David Ayer, a guy who is known to get gritty and get the factual details right. Ayer started off his career writing police thrillers like Training Day and Dark Blue. Then he started directing, with his biggest success (before Fury), being End of Watch, the Jake Gylenhal Los Angeles police force drama. His movies have never been great, but they have always been interesting. Fury might be his most artistic film to date (it is certainly his most historical), but it fits right in there with his others as far as not quite being captivating, and a little too slowly paced.
This movie opens with an incredible sequence. We see just a horizon out in the distance and then slowly the profile of a man on horseback is revealed, coming towards the camera. For the longest time, we can’t even be sure if that’s what it is, until the man gets closer and closer. Eventually he reaches the camera and the horse continues to walk past us. Now we follow behind and alongside them as they pass a number of damaged tanks, all of them set on fire, just sitting there. As the man rides past the third tank, a new silhouette emerges. There is a man on this tank, hiding behind the guns, and he jumps onto the man on horseback, knocking him to the ground. It is the Brad Pitt character, “Wardaddy,” who attacks the horse riding German soldier, and then stabs him repeatedly once they are both on the ground. This is an incredible opening. The way it takes it’s time and uses imagery in the distance shows composure and artistic wit.
From here, we meet the crew. Wardaddy is in charge, but he has three men who help him maintain the tank, (which they call Fury), and drive it into battle. These men are Bible (Shia Labeouf), Gordo (Michael Pena) and Coon-Ass (Jon Berenthal.) None of their names really matter. They are used so infrequently, that by the end, we are lucky if we even know the name Wardaddy. The names thing isn’t a big deal, but the bigger issue is that these men don’t really have a whole lot of individual personality. Coon-Ass as the bully of the group has the most definition of them all. Gordo has the least. He likes women and tries to speak Mexican when he can. That’s about all we know on him. With Bible, it’s not much more. All we know is that he’s religious. The fact that these men aren’t given more than about one line to define their characters is a weak move.
And then we meet the new guy. There’s always a new guy. How else to tell the story as a fish out of water tale? I would say, you don’t. Does every movie have to about a new guy coming in, taking on the point of view of the audience when meeting all the current members of a team? He learns the rules so that we can learn them and see them presented to us with nice, neat explanations. Movies have been doing this for ages, but here it feels really obvious and forced. The new guy is Norman (played by Logan Lerman,) and he’s both young and inexperienced. Norman is not a solider. He’s a guy who sits in an office and types. Yet somehow the powers that be thought he would be good for this job and throw him into it head first. It would have been nice to find out at some point in this movie exactly what Norman did to end up here and piss the wrong people off. That opportunity never comes. That’s because this movie has no interest in back story, and it’s a real shame.
Norman’s first mission with the crew is really just them driving in the tank, with a convoy of other tanks in front and behind them. This is the U.S. military in Germany. It’s the end of World War II, and many of these soldiers have been fighting since the start of the war, many years earlier. The war has expanded through the continent of Europe and now it is finally closing in on Germany. While that is definitely a good sign for the allied forces, the bad news is that they are now completely on enemy territory. Just riding around now, with no enemy in sight, the convoy gets attacked by kids who run up to it and set one of the tanks on fire.
Norman saw the kids coming and did nothing about it. Granted he did not know the kids were about to set the tank on fire, but even still, kids running at the convoy should have been a sign to do something. When confronted about it, Norman tells Wardaddy that they were just kids, and that’s why he hesitated. Norman is furious. One of the U.S. soldiers in the thank caught fire and ended up shooting himself in the head. Wardaddy blames Norman. He makes Norman shoot a Nazi soldier who they have captured, in the back.
All of this is just okay. Both Norman and Wardaddy have point about why they are doing what they’re doing, but none of it is all that compelling. That’s when we get our first big tank battle scene. It involves a group of American tanks firing at a line of Nazi soldiers who are hiding behind trees, off in the distance. The Nazi’s have heavy artillery of their own, and the gunfire looks like laser blasts coming into and out of the trees. This is great stuff. To top it off, Germans start popping up from underground secret tunnels, and firing on the tanks.
The shootout between the tanks and the Nazis behind the trees becomes something different when the Nazis bring out a tank of their own. The two tanks ride right up close, and then start circling around each other, both looking for the perfect shot. This is the kind of scene you never would expect to see. Maybe two tanks firing at each other from far away in the distance, but not two tanks basically break dancing with each other. It is an incredibly fun and clever scene and Ayer really handles it well.
The action scenes, like that one, are all fantastic. But every scene that’s not action is filled with average dialogue, little character development, and not really a whole lot going on. Take the sequence where they come across German women in a small town, for example. Way to long is spent on the men deciding on whether or not they are going to sleep with these women, or sitting down at the kitchen table to have a meal with them. Sure, we see more of how Norman is a gentle character, and we also get to watch him form a bond with WarDaddy, both going in to hang out with these women together, but as far as the actual content of the sequence, it’s not very enthralling.
The final scene is another big battle, only with this one, the men have time to prepare. There are plenty of obstacle involved in it, and most of the scene unfolds at night. It’s definitely a thrilling scene in a pretty exciting movie. The action here is wonderful, but everything else is not. This movie needed much more character development and better dialogue. The critics loved it, perhaps because of it’s historical content or artistic filming, but without much of a story, the movie is pretty weak.