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‘Fury’ starring Brad Pitt is a dark look at war

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Fury, the new Brad Pitt World War II movie, is difficult to watch. It’s relentlessly bleak, and at times, gruesome. Pitt plays Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier,  U.S. Army sergeant in the 2nd Armored Division, who leads a crew as they maneuver their tank, Fury, throughout the German towns as they embark on a deadly mission in enemy territory.  Only problem is, the odds are severely stacked against Wardaddy and his crew, as they are heavily outnumbered and outgunned in their quest to stop the Nazis.Photo: wegotthiscovered.com

Writer/director David Ayer creates films of men in intense situations (Fast and Furious, Training Day, End of Watch). The challenge with Fury is that the characters move through most of the movie as victims of the military’s whims. While it might be a realistic portrayal, it’s less satisfying to watch. As is expected, the Nazis, particularly the SS, are the bad guys. But Ayer belabors the monstrous things the Americans also do trying to stop them.

Pitt plays a similar role to his Inglorious Basterds character, Lt. Aldo Raine, without any of the Tarantino inspired cheeky lunacy. Pitt is great, of course, but Wardaddy is on a mission and only briefly does he reveal his empathy.  Despite his off-screen personal problems, Shia LaBeouf delivers a nuanced, haunting performance as Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan, who is looking for an opportunity to introduce anyone to his personal Jesus. Michael Peña provides welcome comic relief as the driver Gordo. Former child actor Logan Lerman is excellent; his character, the inexperienced soldier, is trapped with a squad of dysfunctional, damaged, men. This role enables him to show more range than the Percy Jackson franchise in which he’s the title character. Unfortunately, these men are clichés, and it’s unclear why Ayer didn’t provide each of them with a bit more development.

That being said, Fury’s supporting cast, which consists of many actors more familiar for their TV roles, is excellent; Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead), who’s also worked with Martin Scorsese and Jim Parrack (True Blood), Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son) who makes a brief but strong impression as one of the many Sergeants, and the versatile Jason Isaacs, who is great as Captain Waggoner, commands the skeleton crew.

The challenge with war movies is their purpose, and Fury is no exception. Are they trying to tell a specific, personal story, which will resonate with the audience? Is there an inspiring lesson to be learned? Other films tell the WWII story better. 

Warning: There are some extremely disturbing images of wounded/dying soldiers.

 

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com

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Photo: wegotthiscovered.com