Hello movie lovers! Or likers, or it's-complicateders or just-frienders or whatever you do. I'm back to sort out my thoughts about Fury, the Brad Pitt-starring WWII drama that came out over the weekend. It has had me thinking since I saw it on Monday, and I think you should give it a look as well.
In Greek mythology, furies, or erinyes, were the female deities of vengeance. They would often violently punish oath-breakers and the insolent. They are also sometimes an "embodiment of the act of self-cursing." Thank you, Wikipedia.
I went on this pseudo-research bend after I saw Fury, because as it finished it seemed to me that it isn't really a war movie, at least as far as making a politicalish statement is concerned. Plot-wise, of course, it totally is: Pitt leads an American tank crew through Germany as the war ends. But resonance-wise, it feels different. This is vague, so allow me to explain.
On paper, Fury is often as conventional a WWII movie as there is. Pitt is the grizzled leader of a tight tank crew, which includes the religious guy, the Mexican guy, the Alabamian guy, and the scared new guy. This hardy troupe encounter the kinds of experiences with anonymous and faceless German soldiers you might think they would, and there is a healthy but not overbearing dose of postmodern skepticism thrown in to taste. But, all that aside, it is not really a war movie.
The movie is about the primeval in us, more than anything else. Nobility and honor in a war movie are things we stopped doing with Vietnam (with the exception of Saving Private Ryan,) but Fury tries to take it a step further: there isn't even right and wrong. Here, what is awakened in the man who finds himself in battle far predates any conception of what is good or not. Stephen Crane talked about it in The Red Badge of Courage, the animalization of a man driven to survive the insane situation of 10,000 of his fellows trying to kill him. No other species attempts its own genocide. Perhaps that is the fury referred to in the title: the fury of the complacent, easy, "natural" man against the bloody and counterintuitive taxes of life required of his "civilized" generation.
One of the more moving scenes takes place in a German home which two of our tank crew have adopted after a battle. The women make them food; together they eat and sing and make love and try to enjoy something "normal." But these men are as out of place there as they would be flyfishing on the moon. The scene ends with a call to battle, and a return the belly of the tank, the only home they understand anymore. They claim, ruefully, ironically, but undeniably, that the war is "the best job they ever had." I would say then that, more accurately, the fury the film is concerned with is more of the self-cursing variety.
Fury is haunting and grim and at times contradictory, or at least tonally complicated. It is an interesting counterbalance to the idealistic tone struck in Monuments Men, from earlier this year. Though probably stick with that one for your feel-better-about-life movie night.
Fury features Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, and Jon Bernthal, and is rated R for tank-related killing and many swears.
Written and directed by David Ayer
by Chase Harrison