Tanking into a beaten Germany
Fury (MA15+) National release Hector and the Search for Happiness (M) National release This is Where I Leave You (M) National release
WORLD War II has been over for nearly 70 years now, and countless movies made mostly in the 1950s and 60s explored — from all sides of the conflict — deeds of heroism and the futility of war. When Quentin Tarantino came up with the deliberately trashy, but very engaging, Inglourious Basterds, and rewrote the history of the conflict, you might have thought there was nothing left to say. But now here’s which, like Tarantino’s film, stars Brad Pitt and is set in war-torn Europe. There the comparisons end.
Fury is an entirely fictitious story about four American tanks that plough deep into Nazi Germany in the dying days of the war. The title is the nickname given to one of the tanks by its crew, led by Sgt Don Collier (Pitt), a heavily scarred veteran. His crew comprises a Biblequoting character nicknamed Bible (Shia LaBeouf), a brutal, savage redneck they call Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal), Gordo (Michael Pena) the driver, and newcomer Norman (Logan Lerman), whose posting as gunner seems incongruous given he was trained as a typist.
Early scenes indicate Fury is setting itself up to be an expose of the brutality of the American soldier: Collier forces the terrified and reluctant Norman to shoot and kill an unarmed German prisoner, and a scene in which the Americans take over a small town and invade the home of two frightened women is exceedingly ugly in its implications, though undeniably tense. Few films since Robert Aldrich’s formidable Attack! (1956), which dealt with cowardice and corruption among officers, have painted such a bleak picture of the American fighting man — yet, having set up this scenario, with unflinching nastiness, writer-director David Ayer does an unaccountable about-face and turns all his characters into heroes for a well-staged but very unconvincing finale.
I’m not at all sure what Ayer was trying to do here: the film could hardly be classed as entertainment, unless you go for unflinching scenes of combat with bullets convincingly ripping into bodies and ear-shattering explosions; and even Pitt fans will surely be uncomfortable with his role here. Perhaps if Ayer hadn’t softened his message so dramatically towards the end Fury might have worked as an uncompromising study of the way in which war corrupts and demeans its participants, but the compromised conclusion robs even that theme of its impact. We’re left with some impressively staged battle scenes and dialogue that is mostly incomprehensible thanks to the thick accents employed by the actors. It is, in other words, a mess. A FEW years ago, Julia Roberts starred in Eat, Pray, Love, a film based on a popular bestseller about a New York woman who leaves her marriage behind to travel the world and experience all the things the title promises. The film was mediocre, and certainly inferior to the similarly themed which is also based on a bestselling book (by Francois Lelord). This time the central character is male, and is played by Simon Pegg, who is known for the broadly comic characters he has played in films such as Shaun of the Dead. The premise doesn’t sound very promising, but the film turns out to be surprisingly agreeable.
Hector is a self-absorbed London psychiatrist who lives a very well-ordered life. His patients are a boring bunch, and his home life, with live-in girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike)
Hector and the Search for Happiness,