War is hell. That has become a cliched statement, but the truth is that even the justified wars are hell. People die and people die horribly. Over the course of the years the movie-versions of wars have become more and more realistic. It started out fairly sanitized, but with Oliver Stone’s Platoon there was a bit of a change. Many would probably say that the realism hit its height with Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. However, the latest movie starring Brad Pitt is called Fury and it manages to show us things that we haven’t seen before.
The story follows Pitt and his tank crew. They have been together in the same Sherman Tank, named Fury, since Africa. As Pitt’s character says at one point, he has been killing Germans in Africa, then Italy, then France and now Germany. It is 1945 and the Germans are very close to giving up. Hitler has called for all out war and requiring every man, woman and child to find a way to fight the Allies.
Pitt and his crew just lost one of their own. The U.S. Army simply grabs a typist out of the clerical pool and sends him over to Pitt and his men. This young man has never been to tank school, and his only real skill is that he can type 60 words per minute. He is not very welcome.
We see the movie through this young man’s eyes. We see the brutal way in which these tank men live. The Germans have created the new Tiger tanks and they are more heavily armored and have longer and more powerful guns than the Sherman Tanks. The life expectancy of the tank men is not very long.
Pitt’s character, Wardaddy, is a brutal man. All of them are. They have all seen and been forced to do things that have left them shaken. They tell the newcomer that he will be amazed to see what one human being can do to another. When Norman, the new kid, sees children firing weapons at the tanks in front of him, he finds himself unable to return fire.
Pitt and his men are tasked with holding a crossroads as Germans approach. By holding this crossroads a supply train will be able to get through so the Allies can push further into Germany. However, once Pitt and the two other tanks set out, they run into trouble. Before long, only Fury is left, and then a mine blows off one of the treads, leaving Fury immobile at the crossroads while an SS platoon numbering in the hundreds heads right for them.
This movie does not sugarcoat anything. In the first two minutes Pitt is leaping on a Nazi officer and driving a knife through his eye. We see body parts flying and blood flows freely. Things are also not quite cut and dried in this film. Yes, the Nazis are bad. We see how they hang men, women and children from light poles and windows if they refuse to fight the oncoming Allies. However, we also see how these hardened U.S. fighting men have come to see any and all German soldiers as less than human. There is a brutal scene involving a captured German begging for his life while an officer wants him shot through the back.
The movie is intense in its action. There are cliches. When the final battle comes there is even a moment when all of the men in Fury share a bottle of booze with each other. However, during the final battle scenes I found myself on the edge of my seat with my fingers quite literally in my mouth. When the movie was over, I sat in stunned silence for a while, feeling a bit as if I had just gone through a war. The body count in this one is impossible to calculate.
The acting is outstanding all the way around. Pitt is excellent as the hardened center of it all. Shia LeBeouf also turns in an outstanding performance as the guy who mans the big gun of the tank. The direction is also excellent, keeping you right there amid the carnage and not shying away from showing you how brutal it all is.
Fury is probably not the greatest war film. It strays into cliche a few too many times and the score is a little over the top in terms of being too melodramatic, but it is certainly one of the better ones in recent years. As far as 2014 goes, I think Fury could stand as one of the best.