Friday, October 24, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 33

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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review

'Fury' offers a grim look at war and its effects




Where is it playing?: Movies Lompoc, Parks Plaza

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $9.00 (Anna)

What's it worth?: $10.00 (Glen)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

In this World War II-era film, written and directed by David Ayer, Brad Pitt stars as Don “Wardaddy” Collier, a tough-as-nails army sergeant commanding a Sherman tank and its crew: Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña), and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal). On a push into the European Theatre in 1945, they’re tasked with an impossible mission against overwhelming Nazi opposition. (134 min.)


Glen: If you’re looking for a war movie with epic bravery, clear good guys and bad guys, and triumph over evil, this isn’t quite it. Instead, “bravery” is a myth, the “good guys” are complicated, and evil is sadly banal in Fury. Ostensibly this is the story of Norman Ellison, a kid only eight weeks in the army, trained “to type 60 words a minute,” but thrown into a Sherman tank crew after one of its members is killed in action. The crew has been together since North Africa, and to call them tight knit would be an understatement; to call them mentally healthy would be a stretch. So Norman is thrown in with these morally suspect men and sent on a suicide mission, and along the way, we watch as he slowly gets ground up in the same mental meat grinder his crewmembers were. That’s the film’s message: War is hell, and no one gets out untouched, even when they’re on the right side—and has there ever been a righter side in the history of warfare than opposite the Nazis?

Anna: Make sure you clear your schedule after seeing this film, because you’re going to need a tall, strong drink after watching 134 minutes of war, brutality, and death. While the film’s most obvious theme is that war is hell, the quieter moments show a brotherhood and bonding between this group of soldiers that can only happen when your lives are in each other’s hands. They are a tricky bunch to warm to—hard hearted, filthy, and just plain rude, but fiercely loyal, brave, and even loving toward each other. Pitt does a great job playing the leader of this raucous crew—smart and brooding, not taking any guff from anyone. There’s death and destruction in every bit of this film, and if that isn’t your thing, you could have a tough time making it through. But if you can get past the blood and the mess of war, this film is really interesting and well acted.

Glen: One of the most surprising moments occurs when Don and Norman push their way into an apartment in a German town they just secured. While their fellow crewmembers take turns with a prostitute in their tank, Don and Norman find a moment to regain their humanity with two scared German women who slowly lose their fear as they discover Don and Norman’s humanity. Even though Don is hardened to the point of granite, we see his vulnerable side in a number of scenes. He doesn’t let anyone else see him suffer, especially his crew, and I got the feeling as I got to know him more that he sees in Norman the man he used to be before war corrupted him. He wants to both season Norman so he’ll survive and also protect his moral center. That’s really what the best war movies seem to be about: doing your duty while still preserving your soul. By the end of Fury, Norman is indeed a changed man, but like his fellow crewmembers Coon-Ass, Gordo, Bible, and Wardaddy, he’s still got enough of his moral center to be considered a good man.

Anna: It certainly shows what war does to those on the ground. Norman starts as a bright-eyed, innocent young man, who is clearly terrified with the task he’s been assigned, then becomes a hardened soldier who doesn’t give second thought to mowing down those on the other side. Wardaddy tells him in the beginning that seeing what people will do to each other will change him, and indeed it does. Overall, I think that this is a story about sticking together, right up to the bitter end. That’s what this crew did, and for better or worse, Norman became the soldier he needed to be to have even a shot at survival. You can see his loss, his pain, his desire to do what is “right,” and that of his comrades as well, albeit a little farther from the surface. For me, it wasn’t the battle scenes and shots fired that made this a good war movie; it was the quiet scenes—moments in the tank passing a bottle, a simple dinner with the two German women—those little humanizing moments really elevated this film for me.

Glen: This is certainly the crowning achievement for writer-director David Ayer, who’s written a great film (Training Day) and directed one, too (End of Watch). After Fury, consider Ayer elevated to the A-List. There’s great acting here, too. Pitt’s portrayal is complex and nuanced. Jon Bernthal’s Coon-Ass is incredibly feral. Peña’s Gordo has been emotionally deadened. Lerman’s Norman obviously has the biggest character arc, and he plays it just right. I think the best performance comes from LaBeouf, whose Bible is a tortured soul trying to make sense of the horrors around him. Throw in cinematography by Roman Vasyanov, and you’ve got an Oscar-worthy effort.


Split Screen is written by Sun contributor and New Times Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at