Year Released: 2014
Directed by: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal
(R, 135 min.)
Genre: Drama, Action and Adventure
“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” Brad Pitt as Sergeant Don Collier, aka “Wardaddy”
It’s official. Hollywood has its Mojo back. Thanks to Brad Pitt, it’s now okay to be a macho warrior, even outside the realm of the Marvel movie franchise.
In “ …a film that rockets forward dripping with blood, mud and testosterone” (Mike Scott) this World War II tank epic looks evil straight in the eye. We see it in the dead Germans hanging from the outskirts of town, victims of the SS, which labeled them cowards for not taking up arms at this, the bitter end of a war they all know is already lost. Or in the feeble old man, gunned down because he tells the tank crew where the Nazi soldiers are hiding.
There is very little in muted grey in this graphic war film; the war weary tank crew and their leader Segeant “Wardaddy” Collier(Brad Pitt) have been fighting Germans since 1942 in Africa. And they have just lost their gunner, his mutilated corpse still with them in the claustrophobic Sherman tank they have nicknamed Fury.
Whether it’s merely bravado or a kind of ritual chant, it’s still “…the best job I ever had,” according to Wardaddy, Bible (Shia LaBeouf), Grady (Jon Bernthal), and Gordo (Michael Pena). At least they are alive and their warrior spirit still intact. An unspoken bond unites the rag tag crew to face the next battle, where their Sherman tanks are outmatched by the better-armored German Tiger tanks. They hoop and holler like teens at a video arcade when they hit a tank or kill an enemy, but of course, these men are not computer icons, but flesh and blood soldiers.
We see that up front and personal in the first scene where Wardaddy plunges his dagger into a German soldier who rides by on a white horse. Despite the white charger, this is certainly not the jousting of knights, reined in by honor or valor.
And those brutal realities are hard to accept for the newcomer, Norman (Logan Lerman), the clerk typist drafted to replace Wardaddy’s dead gunner. He cannot even kill a German soldier he deems too young.
“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent,” Wardaddy tells him. Words are one thing, but Norman’s initiation into those bloody rights makes us cringe. A captured German soldier masquerading in an American uniform must die on the spot and Wardaddy is pitiless in his insistence that Norman do the job.
The camera never flinches; nor does it judge either. This is place where the normal restraints of civilization no longer exist. We see it in the carnage of men, the dead and dying stacked in trucks like human debris, hear it in the tales of the German horses that had to die to defeat the cornered enemy,
One scene, however, jars. It takes place in one of the German towns they capture. Gordo and Grady take a large bottle of wine and a seemingly willing German wench into the tank as shared spoils of war.
Wardaddy and Norman scout out a building looking for danger and instead find a woman and a young girl she has hidden under the bed. Wardaddy opens a box, shrouded in soft fabric. Inside are 6 eggs. He indicates to the frightened woman that she should cook them. Then he takes off his shirt, but it is only to clean off the dirt and grease and sweat that have been his constant companion for who knows how long.
Ah, what a contrast to the less savory antics of Gordo and Grady, we think. The German girl shyly begins to sing as Norman plays a tune on the piano. She even smiles at him.
“If you won’t take her into the bedroom, I will,” Wardaddy tells him. What follows between the girl and Norman is implied to be consensual sex, but it doesn’t ring true to this critic. Perhaps if more than say 20 minutes had passed, we might have accepted that this girl would welcome the amorous attention of the enemy invader. We go from hiding under the bed to activity upon it in record time. The old lady’s instincts about hiding the girl were solid, it seems, but Wardaddy dismisses the whole episode with a clichéd, “They’re young.”
Another quibble from Different Drummer, and one I have with so many films supposedly occurring in this time period, is the use of the F word. It is used in a way I know is inauthentic, where perhaps “hell” or “damn” would stand in during that era. Why the need to roll it out so often I do not know. Omnipresent not just as verb, but now also a noun, and adjective as well. It offends not just as an anachronism, but reflects a paucity of verbal creativity that mars our coarse age.
Quibbles aside, we are on stronger ground as we return to the battlefield, where the crew takes heavy fire once again. As the final battle looms, they partake of aged Scotch Whiskey and Bible verses in equal measure. In the face of danger and almost certain death, the brutalized crew of the Fury are heroes. They do not yield.
They remind us of the great debt we owe our fighting men and women who stand between us and chaos, even as they are tainted by it.
A jarring pivotal scene in a small German town is the only one that has women in it. It displays a somewhat softened image of the American troops taking the feminine spoils of war. What Brad Pitt’s tank commander offers is not nylon stockings, but six carefully cradled fresh, brown eggs.
In another time and another place, the interaction might have been more civilized. The plain fried eggs, perhaps prepared with more ingredients and subtlety.
Let’s fast forward our group to more peaceful times, where the first sparks of love get time to sparkle and simmer instead of bursting into premature flame. And we can take our time with the eggs, too.
You will love this German Omelet, rich and savory with potatoes, onions, ham, and cheese.
1/4 c. butter
2 c. diced, uncooked potatoes
1/4 c. finely chopped onions
1 c. diced ham
1/4 c. chopped parsley
3/4 tsp. salt
Melt butter in large skillet. Add potatoes and onions. Coover and cook over medium heat until browned, about 20 minutes. Add ham and cook until it is a light brown. Sprinkle with parsley and reduce heat. Beat eggs, salt, pepper and cream and pour over ham and potatoes. Cover and cook until eggs are almost set. Sprinkle cheese over top and cover until cheese is melted. Slice into wedges and serve.