War in the raw
Running time 117 minutes
Ever since Saving Private Ryan, film buffs have preferred their war films to be grim, realistic and bloody, with plenty of gore and assorted body parts as an optional extra. This may not be to everyone’s taste – the opening battle sequence of Saving Private Ryan is apt to spoil a perfectly good roast beef Sunday lunch – but then it’s better than the old John Wayne classics with the occasional spot of blood and clean kills. Fury, perhaps trying to re-create the admiration for SPR as a realistic depiction of battle, is heavy on death in all its brutal, minced-up versions, typical when large metal objects travelling at 1,000 miles an hour hit soft flesh protected only by good army uniforms. The film, starring Brad Pitt complete with brutal haircut, is set in Germany during the last months of World War 2, when seemingly everyone but Hitler knew all was lost. He ordered total war with old men, children and women put in uniform to try to stop the American and British advance. Pitt plays Sergeant Don Collier, in charge of a Sherman Mark 4 tank called Fury. His job is to kill Germans until they quit fighting and he and his crew are very good at it. They even take on, and beat, the better-armed and armoured German Tiger tank, but it takes four Shermans to do it, at very close range. This crew is joined by new recruit Norman (Logan Lerman), a typist thrust into a tank for the first time and told to machine-gun anything that moves, even children seeking to destroy the tank. As you can imagine, it’s a fast growing-up process, fighting with four other men in a metal box that has the annoying habit of catching fire when hit by German shells. Thus, the British nickname for the Sherman they also used, the “Tommycooker”). The crew find themselves defending a vital crossroads on their own against a fanatical Waffen SS group seeking to ambush an American column. The outcome of course is not likely to be good. This is a grim picture of war in all its horror, brutality and blackness, with just the occasional, small glimmer of humanity, such as when the young Norman meets a German girl and they talk just like ordinary youngsters, or when a young German soldier sees a lone American survivor in a battle and spares him with a sad and knowing smile. But apart from that, it is grim all the way, yet with performances of gratifying subtlety, given the comparative lack of dialogue. War films may not be your favourite subject matter, but if only for historical knowledge, this is a film that deserves to be seen if only to give a clearer idea of the constant and unremitting terror that tank crews endured during battles. Good acting, dark and realistic cinematography, and an appropriate storyline, make Fury a worthy addition to the genre.