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Friday, October 17, 2014

Achtung Panzer!

Being a World War II buff, when I first saw the trailer for Brad Pitt's new World War II tank movie 'Fury' I felt like a kid unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.  Like westerns, World War II is a genre that's all too rare in cinema these days, but this year we've already seen two with Fedor Bondarchuk's 'Stalingrad' and now this paean to the unsung tankers in World War II.  Known for his intense, gritty and visceral crime thrillers including 'Harsh Times,' 'Street Kings' and 'End of Watch,' director David Ayers delivered his best effort yet in this brutal, realistic and highly competent World War II melodrama.
 
In 'Fury,' Brad Pitt plays a war weary, grizzled tank commander known as Wardaddy because he's father figure to a crew of equally war weary and battle hardened misfits, except for a new assistant driver (Logan Lerman) who had yet to undergo his trial by fire.  Whether he's orchestrating the breach of an anti-tank screen, engaging the near legendary Tiger at close range, repelling repeated attacks by the hated Waffen SS in a glorious last stand worthy of George Armstrong Custer, or simply mowing down Nazi pigs with his captured StG44 assault rifle, Wardaddy embodied all the best attributes of the archetypal Hollywood war hero: soft-spoken, self assured, competent, cool under fire, displaying much dash and √©lan while leading by example.  There is no shortage of exciting and grisly battle scenes of combat and carnage, giving us a sobering look at the cost and harsh realities of war.  Attention to detail is also evident in the dress, equipment, vehicles and sets used throughout the film.  All the tanks in the movie are real, not rendered by a computer.  Now that's commitment.
It's easy for World War II buffs to nitpick at the movie's various "faults," such as the fact that the Tiger would have picked off the Shermans at long range with its 88mm gun, the seeming lack of gunnery skills or accuracy on the part of German soldaten in general (including a sniper, even), and the rather questionable assault tactics employed by the Waffen SS in the final scene.  But war movies have to take certain liberties for the sake of being "epic" and "cinematic," so let's not get overly critical here.  While 'Fury' isn't as indelible as 'Saving Private Ryan,' it's still a well-crafted war movie and a solid contribution to the World War II subgenre.

Grade: A

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