I would say that this lives up to its name. So at the tail end of World War II, the Nazis were making their last stand. The Allies had to deliver one last blow to the heart of Germany, and this is about a company of American men in a tank, pushing through and fighting, even when they are heavily outmanned and outgunned. It’s been a while since a movie has made me feel like I was right there in the shit as much as this one does; Lone Survivor did it well, but it was a completely different sensation, Kathryn Bigelow’s movies feel impersonal, and War Horse was overrated and melodramatic. I’m looking over war movies released this side of the turn of the century, and while there are certainly ones I enjoy more (Inglourious Basterds), I don’t think there is one that’s this intense.
One thing that this movie does great is putting you on pins and needles; you are tense at every single moment because you never at any point feel safe, and it shows you time and time again that something bad can happen at a moment’s notice. Even in scenes where there isn’t imminent danger, such as when these guys are simply eating a meal, your nerves still won’t calm down because these are unpredictable gray characters who aren’t good guys per se, they only look favorable when immediately compared with Nazis. War brings out the worst in humanity, and this shows you every ugly, disturbing element to it and will likely give you nightmares if you don’t have the stomach for this kind of affair. Every ounce of this is covered in thick, bloody mud, and while it is very well made, you’re not going to have a good time watching this.
The acting is all very well done, and you get committed performances from seasoned veterans like Brad Pitt and Michael Pena. Jon Bernthal from Walking Dead fame does a good job playing unhinged here, and Shia LaBeouf, for the first time in his career, loses himself in the role; this is the first time I watched him act and didn’t just see the kid from Transformers yelling “nononononono.” This is also the best acting from Logan Lerman yet, and between this and the Perks of Being a Wallflower, he shows tons of potential.
Now this is definitely the annual War contender for Oscar season, but it’s not the kind of movie that takes home a lot of wins; the Academy doesn’t typically go for films that are this dark and violent, so I wouldn’t expect it to get anything more than a couple of possible wins for sound design/editing. I did like this and there is a whole lot to recommend here, but it is a pretty standard story, so I am curious to see how this stands the test of time; there’s not a whole lot of subtext, so what you get here is a very well-made War movie that you don’t retain much from other than the sentiment of, “well, that was distressing.”
Fury (2014) ****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2014? See for yourself here.