War is hell. Making war look like hell is pretty fucking glamorous.
It must be a war fetishist’s wet dream to have the financial might of Hollywood to build a big ass scale model of World War II. Imagine having unlimited resources to perfect the tiny scars on your pewter figurines, and straighten those itty-bitty decals on the Sherman tanks. To make the mud look wet and the bomb craters truly blown out.
An anal recreationist’s vision is the sense I got from Fury. The people who made it really got their rocks off on the physical details. They creamed their panties trying to make war look like hell, fabulously gruesome hell. One problem, though, is that while a scale model can get details right, those details are not a soul.
Another problem is that World War II is way behind us now. There aren’t many people who lived through it and can still put together a lucid sentence. As the war fades into memories of memories, every new generation’s attempt to revive it is like a photocopy of a copy where the nuances disappear and all that’s left are the outlines, dark and harsh. No doubt the depiction in Fury will be declared realistic by a shitload of people who can determine its authenticity only by comparing it to other Hollywood depictions of war. And it must be more authentic, right, because it’s muddier and bloodier?
Good God, is Fury muddy and bloody. It’s like the time they held Lilith Fair in a Wisconsin pasture. Man’s-man director David Ayer swings his dick and shows a shitload of bullets and bombs, whizzing and booming. When they hit, they blow off heads and legs and highlight the makeup crew’s skills. Nobody would dare question if Ayer’s fucking serious about war. How can you ask that of a man who shows brains exploding and a flap of face skin draped over a tank’s controls?
The guts of Fury is a throwback to the us-versus-them-damn-Nazis flicks of the fifties. These were movies steeped in patriotism based on the moral certainty that beating Hitler gave us. They came before we got bogged down in battles without clear villains and correct outcomes. Nazis bad. Killing Nazis good. It feels either defiant or idiotic to make a movie like that nowadays.
A small but stereotypically representative group of brave Americans are assigned to a tank they’ve named Fury. That’s where the movie title comes from. I was hoping maybe the movie was about a stripper I met at Larry’s Villa who called herself Fury. For good reason, I learned after paying for a lap dance and getting titty-whipped into unconsciousness. Her real name was Fury, too. She gave me her business card. She’s an account executive for Herbalife where she must have some pull because I got a great deal on some pills that make me shit on demand.
Fury (the movie) fills the war tank with what the grassfuckers think is a cross-section of America: the bible thumper (Chia Pet LaQueef), the sassy Mexican (Michael Peña), the hillbilly (Jon Bernthal), the naïf (Logan Lerman), and the stoic daddy-figure chief (Brad Pitt). Although they’re all different, together they’re supposed to represent some patriotic vision of the American people. They’re always feuding and cussing, but ultimately looking out for each other, working together, and overcoming their differences to defeat outside sources. It’s a nice fantasy, and one the movie wants to get away with while under the warm blanket of nostalgia from a war we won.
The plot is a 135-minute video game, specifically Battlezone, the old Atari version. It starts with an easy battle, and progresses to harder and more diabolical ones. The ragtag crew’s tank is wading into the heart of Germany at the end of the war. They are surrounded by better-armed Germans because that’s how these stories work. Early on Fury is one of many American tanks fighting few enemies. Halfway through, it’s advanced to a more difficult level where there are fewer tanks and more enemies. Ultimately, there is what the kids call the “boss battle,” Fury and its crew stand alone against a much bigger tank and then an entire SS squadron that can mortally wound the Allied forces if it isn’t stopped.
Along the way, the soldiers get caked with more and more mud. The battles become more ludicrous as the bodies pile up. The director is somewhere behind the cameras, fapping to how fucking gritty Hollywood’s money has let him make it all.
Grit is the movie’s only real accomplishment. Because blowing shit up is truly what Fury is about. Sure, it comes at it by pretending to want exactitude and claim to be revealing the horrors of war, because that’s where the prestige is. But it’s still just a big boom movie that puts far more effort into explosions than into original ideas. There is a feeble, comic-book-mentality thread of humanity amongst the mass graves. Logan Lerman’s naïf starts out a virgin in love and war. He pops his killing cherry first and springs his boner on a German girl second. Whatever qualms he had about either , and whatever might have been said about how icky it is to kill someone, or see someone die, are quickly downed out by loud explosions.
A long, long set piece halfway through has America’s Soldiers stopping in a German town they just vanquished and joining two frightened German women for a meal. From this, we are supposed to see how horror and humanity get mixed up, how war turns people into animals. As though we hadn’t heard that before. The movie wants to say, “See, the soldiers hate fighting,” and “See, this movie doesn’t think all the Germans are bad.” But the attempt is forgotten as soon as the soldiers are back inside their tank, shooting up shit and swearing at Nazis.
It’s all too simple. Hard work is coming up with new things to say about war, not burying humanity in hellfire. But Fury is like that accountant in his basement, making sure to get the details of his miniature war right, and using that as an excuse to ignore the people around him. Two Fingers.