Tank­ing into a beaten Ger­many

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Review - David Strat­ton

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)

Fury,

Hec­tor and the Search for Hap­pi­ness,

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