Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Fury (2014)

I do believe this is the first war film I've seen based around a tank crew...yep! The movie is set in the final days of WWII as the Nazi's are retreating back towards Berlin and the Allies slowly take back Europe. The story is fictional but based around a few actual events and people such as Lafayette G. Pool and Audie Murphy (so I've read). It follows a small five man tank crew as they push deeper into Germany taking control of a small town, dealing with prisoners and locals and eventually being handed orders to defend a set of crossroads for a vital supply route.

OK so this being a modern war film it doesn't skimp on the blood and guts no sir. War films these days are a far cry from when I was a kid as I'm sure many know. There is no holding back as bullets blow soldiers heads off, rip through their bodies with blood spurting everywhere, limbs and corpses strew around, people hung from street lighting, bodies being bulldozed into mass graves etc...in short this film is very graphic. To be honest this is a good thing because it really does show what these conflicts were probably like, its not like a videogame with multiple lives and power-ups, war is real shit and scary shit at that.

The first engagement sequence where the five Sherman tanks are attacked by heavy artillery and trenched troops really shows what it would be like to have high powered weapons (MG42) firing bullets in your face. The sound effects are incredible here as the bullets seem to zing past your own head but it also shows how insanely easy it was to get blown away in the first five minutes. Another sequence that really brought the danger crashing home is when the Allied regiment takes a small German town. As the troops and tanks slowly crawl through the streets clearing the buildings one by one they are hit by hidden snipers and more MG42's from windows high up and cellar openings. The powerful MG42 machine gun fire from one cellar blows one soldiers leg clean off as it wipes out a group of men in seconds. Its truly heart stopping as the gun fire gives your speakers a good pounding and bullets zip through men like a hot knife through butter, alas we still cannot break away from obvious CGI blood.

Yes the visuals are top notch all round with accurate weaponry, uniforms, vehicles, buildings and locations, its very highly polished production of course. As for the story...weeeeell not so much really, its a predictable slightly generic affair truth be told, it lets the project down really. On the other hand what else would you expect I guess. But come on...they use the oldest most cliched trick in the book, the new recruit who joins the team with zero war experience and nobody really likes him. The other guys pick on him, make fun of him and don't really help him out, not even the Sgt! We follow this wet behind the ears rookie as he discovers what war is really like, the horrors, the violence...even by his fellow troops. Hell his Sgt even forces him to execute an unarmed prisoner of war. Naturally as time moves on he becomes more at ease with the situation and the other men finally accept him as one of the team...yep cliched is an understatement.

The other oldest cliche in the book would be the simple last man standing routine the plot goes down towards the end. You can see it coming a  mile away and sure enough the moment comes when instead of fleeing the oncoming Germans the Sgt decides to make a ridiculous stand against all odds. Sure enough all his men decide one by one to stand by their Sgt and also commit suicide in this last stand. Romantic, heroic and balls of steel no doubt...but unbelievably cliched and stupid at the same time.

This leads to the biggest problem in the movie, the characters and the fact they're all A-holes...even Brad Pitt. Yes the whole crew are a bunch of annoying shits that I couldn't get behind at all. You are suppose to be rooting for these guys but you can't because they're all so generally unlikable. Don't get me wrong the performances are solid, each member of the cast holds his own and does a good job (including LaBeouf) but the characters they play are just soulless nasty grunts. The worst of which being Coon-Ass (don't blame me that's his actual name) played by Jon Bernthal who is basically an uneducated, illiterate (I'm guessing), uncaring bully who has been at war too long. There is always a character like this in war movies admittedly but this guy constantly gives the rookie a hard time and is virtually blind to the horror unfolding around him. What really annoyed me is the other guys, who aren't as bad, do nothing to stop him, in fact they back him up and laugh with him...which kinda makes them all scum basically.

So that was a huge issue with the movie, the tank crew you're suppose to be caring about and rooting for are fundamentally unlikable so you don't really care what happens to them. Its only at the very end do you start to care for these guys as they each get killed off...yet I still ask myself why. Its only with Brad Pitts last dying words do you actually give a shit about his gruff character with the silly haircut. The fact he kills unarmed prisoners didn't help his case from the start. That also got me thinking...did the Allies really execute unarmed prisoners of war during WWII? I'm sure its possible but I've always been led to believe that our boys didn't do that kind of thing.

There were some other minor negative bits that stood out for me. The German tanks and artillery seemed to be useless shots, in the field battle sequence the Allies were in clear range with no obstructions yet the Germans missed them constantly. The Allies were virtually shooting blind at a line of trees and bushes yet they hit their marks every time. Also did anyone else notice the Allied gunfire was red whilst the German gunfire was blue? it looked like a laser battle from the future. I know its tracer fire but did they use that in WWII or was it so we (the audience) could see what was going on?
Lastly that entire sequence where the Sgt and the rookie meet two German women in the town they took control of goes on way too long. This sequence starts off OK showing a bit of humanity from the Americans until the Sgt lets the rookie have sex with the youngest woman as if it was a reward, she then falls in love with him straight away oddly. Despite that things are seemingly going OK until the rest of the crew barge in and it all goes down hill, which was one of the reasons why I didn't like any of these characters.

Its a raw depiction of the era for sure and its certainly engaging showing us the joys of a deadly cramped life inside a mobile steel shell, but there are so many strange elements that just didn't sit right with me. Mainly a crew of misfits led by a man who shoots an unarmed prisoner in the back at one point then helps out two innocent women the next...where do you stand with this guy?! The final last stand was also way too far fetched and typically Hollywood which really made me think this was a simple action flick disguised as and attempting to be a thought provoking war movie. It was almost more about the guns and war machinery than the human element...but undeniably exciting nonetheless.