‘Fury’ Movie Review: War Brings Out the Worst in Men

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Battle-scarred Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), top left, leads a team of soldiers in command of a Sherman tank towards the end of World War II in “Fury.” (Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

The Bloody WWII Action Movie”Furytakes its name from the moniker of a Sherman tank, its gun emblazoned with – and its mission defined by – this angry word. But it’s inside the dented vehicle, among the members of its tight-knit team, that the real action of the film takes place.

Set in 1945, during the final Allied push into Germany – an endgame marked by desperation and moral compromise on both sides – “Fury” is a tale whose message can be summed up as: “Ideals are peaceful ; the story is violent. But the best and most impactful story centers on the man delivering this nihilistic assessment, the battle-scarred tank commander known as Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), and his relationship with his four-man crew. . As his nickname suggests, Pitt’s character is a kind of damaged father figure, both tough and tender.

As rendered by filmmaker David Ayer (whose track record includes both the gritty crime drama “End of guard tour“And Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Horrible Vehicle”Sabotage”), the combat narrative in “Fury” is the more familiar of two competing storylines. Though filmed with visceral – and often frighteningly macabre – beauty, as well as pulse-pounding drama, the film is only moderately interesting as a war movie, especially when compared to classics such as “paths of glory.” Still, it’s engaging and watchable, even as it heads to a seemingly suicidal climax.

Yet the complex dynamic between Wardaddy and his men is far more fascinating. As the soldiers’ family man, committed to keeping his “sons” alive, but also teaching them something about life and death, Pitt is fascinating as the film’s anti-hero. Wardaddy’s successes and failures as a parent and leader are the most gripping and novel things about “Fury.”

Its success is evident in the fact that the crew survived three years of fighting with a single casualty, in a war notable for its heavy US tank losses. After riding from Africa to France to Germany, the weathered crew consists of Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf); Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña) and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal). At the start of the film, an untested clerk-typist named Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) has just joined them, replacing a dead gunner.

There are a few other things The Reliable Source learned about Brad Pitt from himself and his co-stars at the “Fury” world premiere on Wednesday night. (JulieAnn McKellogg and Alice Li/The Washington Post)

His first assignment? Sampling blood and guts from its predecessor inside the tank. As with all his films, Ayer does not shy away from graphic imagery.

Unlike the other members of the team, who are known almost exclusively by their “noms de guerre”, Norman hasn’t taken on a nickname yet, but he will by the end of the film.

It will also take on more than that. A lesson: Wardaddy is just one man and, in some ways, a terrible role model. A key interlude in the middle of the story, set in the home of two German women (Anamarina Marinca and Alicia von Rittberg) whose apartment has been commandeered for a meal, is particularly telling.

In it, Wardaddy allows his men to misbehave, sometimes in grotesque ways – the implication being that he condones actions approaching the criminal out of opportunity. In another scene, Wardaddy forces a reluctant Norman to execute a captured SS officer. The uncomfortable dynamic is a lewd parody of a father at home, teaching his son to hunt.

With the general exception of the Nazi fighters — only one of whom is shown to be sympathetic — few characters in “Fury” are portrayed as wholly good or wholly evil. It’s easy to see the film as a story about how war turns men into monsters. But it’s much more complicated than that.

The film suggests that it’s not the war that does this, but people like Wardaddy. He is a man who knows the price to pay to keep his men alive to fight or to die another day, and is willing to pay it.

★ ★ ½

A. In theaters in the region. Contains intense violence, macabre imagery and pervasive obscenity.
132 minutes.

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