This was a film that reminded me of the great Northwest Passage (1940). If a guy in Robert Roger’s brigade saved the head of a Native American following a God-awful encounter in the wilderness, how could you really blame him after all he had experienced?
Fury is a movie that is as dark and sinister as any you will see this year. Taking place in April, 1945, deep in Germany, it tells the barely watchable story of an American tank commander and his colleagues who have largely lost the ability to remain sane in a world gone mad.
The Sergeant leading the crew is Don “Wardaddy” Collier, played in another daring role by Brad Pitt. He lives by the rule laid down by George C. Scott in his Oscar-winning portrayal in Patton (1970), “Boys, the only rule of war is to kill the other poor, dumb son of a bitch before he kills you.” That might as well have been Wardaddy’s motto.
Three longtime members of his squad are Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and John Bernthal, collectively playing Boyd “Bible” Swan, Trini “Gordo” Garcia and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis. They have come close to losing their connection with any type of normalcy, and you learn literally nothing about their life before the war, including whether any of them are married.
There is nothing remotely affectionate about any of them, yet you come to the strong conclusion that war has made savages out of all of them. There is a moment where Mr. Pitt finds a bottle of saved whiskey in his tank, and he urges all his comrades to take a drink, sarcastically noting that they probably won’t be alive to suffer a hangover the next morning.
Set apart from the above crew is a new addition, Norman Ellison. Played in the only truly standout performance in the film by Logan Lerman, he is a guy who has been in the military a brief couple of months. At that, he thought he was going to be used as a typist-clerk. He suddenly finds himself joining Wardaddy’s crew, and he is continually reminded that he will amount to nothing unless he embraces the satisfaction of killing a German.
Lerman is appalled, and continually resists waking up as an American vampire on a tank. However, with their undeniable goal being to destroy as many Germans as possible, you know that he will agree to take his metaphoric trip across the River Styx sooner rather than later. Mr. Lerman is a fine actor as previously demonstrated playing Ham in this year’s Noah and Charlie in last year’s phenomenally overlooked The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and his transformation here is genuinely heartbreaking.
Ironically, there is only one short scene involving females, this occurring in a town temporarily taken by the American allies. Pitt takes Lerman with him into an apartment occupied by a mother and her daughter, played with style by Anamaria Marinca (Irma) and Alicia von Rittberg (Emma). While the German women are terrified, Pitt remains polite as he provides eggs while demanding hot water to shave. Lerman is immediately attracted to Ms. von Rittberg, and in the process shells destroy the women as well as Lerman’s connection to decency.
As I watched this movie, I was reminded of the way politicians praise the veterans of World War II as being members of the “Greatest Generation”. In the process, I am also reminded of the father of one of my close friends in grade school back in Batesville, Indiana, a man who worked in a factory and kept exclusively to himself. We always were told to keep a distance from Malcolm, as he was a bit mentally unsettled following his service in World War II.
With Fury, Director David Ayre has brought us a film about a bunch of Malcolms. How can you expect any of them to honorably return to civilization when the memory of it has been forcibly removed from their brain?