War Is An Ulcer-Inducing Gore Porno
If your life isn’t stressful enough and you really want to feel like you need a Xanax rail and some ulcer meds, then Fury is for you, a movie that should really come with a decompression chamber. I’m not convinced David Ayer is a brilliant storyteller, but the dude can film a hell of a battle scene.
In the grand pantheon of war movies, we’ve seen war is righteous, war is hell, war is a drug, and now Fury, if it can be given the benefit of a coherent message for the sake of argument, has given us war is an ulcer-inducing gore porno. War as a meat grinder. And what better setting for a film about war as a dehumanizing meat machine than a tank unit? Use your machines to kill their machines, try not to get burned to death. An intense way to spend two hours (me) or a horrifying nightmare you’ll never want to relive (my date), depending on your perspective.
It’s 1945 and the end is in sight in the European theater, paradoxically a time when the soldiers were the most beaten down and most capable of atrocities against each other, as the soon-to-be losers were at their most desperate, and the soon-to-be winners were at their most frustrated – that the enemy couldn’t just know when they were beat and stop the killing – and disgusted – at the scope of SS crimes which were becoming more clear and the child soldiers now being used as defenders. It’s an interesting setting, and one that tends to get less play in movies. I would’ve loved to see a Band of Brothers/The Pacific-style narrative based on the account of someone who was there. With Fury, we get a fantastic slice-of-life take that at its best reminds you of Master and Commander – bringing home the sights, sounds, camaraderie and B.O. of the period – that’s unfortunately glued to a story that feels alternately porny, sensationalist, and schlocky.
Brad Pitt, who I’m not sure ever stopped being Aldo Raine, plays Wardaddy, a grizzled (but super hot and with a Macklemore haircut) tank commander who the movie can’t decide whether to glorify or demonize. He’s supposed to be complicated, but he sort of just comes off convoluted, idealistic one minute and brutally pragmatic the next. At first I read Wardaddy as a sort of Curtis LeMay-type figure, a guy you’d want on your side in battle, but also a fanatical psychopath you wouldn’t want to meet for dinner. Unfortunately, he’s also supposed to be the educated warrior (he speaks fluent German and can identify Bible verses even though he’s not religious), the gruff father figure, the reluctant badass, etc. Eventually I realized he was just the war movie equivalent of a Big Gulp with every soda variety mixed in.
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One scene that especially didn’t work for me was Wardaddy forcing Logan Lerman to execute a German as some kind of tank-dude frat hazing exercise. It’s not that I doubt impromptu executions ever happened, but I find it much more believable the way it was set up in, say, Saving Private Ryan or even other parts of Fury – a rash decision. I don’t quite believe that an American officer slapped around a subordinate and belittled him into murdering some random, unarmed, begging German soldier in front of dozens or hundreds of laughing Americans. That it’s hard to tell whether the Americans are the good guys in this is sort of an interesting twist on the usual Hollywood WWII formula, but it would work much better if the ingredients were more believable.