fury reviewWar is hell. This much we know is true.

It's also the fodder for prestige action movies like "Fury," about a small team of men who pilot and maneuver the titular tank in the waning days of World War II, where Hitler's Germany acted like a scared and wounded dog -- all teeth and matted fur and ferocious intent. Brad Pitt leads the platoon, which is stocked handily with fine actors like Jon Bernthal, Logan Lerman, Shia LeBeouf (who lost a tooth and cut his face for the role) and Michael Pena.

Instead of a world-saving mission, these good ole boys are more interested in just surviving until the war officially concludes (a task that seems doable until, well, things go to hell). But does this rise out of the flames of war, triumphant? Or burn before it reaches the finish line? Read on to find out!

1. This Is Not 'Inglourious Basterds 2' (Unfortunately)
The last time Brad Pitt was in the Nazi-killing mood, he joined up with the "Inglourious Basterds" for Quentin Tarantino. That film, which might be the filmmaker's very best, was fun and unexpected and formally ambitious. This is not that movie. Not by a long shot. It's much more structured and traditional and "gritty." If you're expecting another gay wartime romp like "Inglourious Basterds," think again. You should probably just watch "Inglourious Basterds." That movie is a masterpiece.

2. It's Incredibly Violent
What is kind of shocking, if we're continuing on this lazy "Inglourious Basterds" comparison tract, which I am more than happy to do, is that "Fury" is more violent than "Inglourious Basterds." While 'Basterds' had those gruesome scalpings and a couple of splashy executions, "Fury" is almost wall-to-wall gore, an unending cascade of red. In fact, the opening moments of the movie involve Brad Pitt launching out of the titular tank and stabbing a German in the face. While this is a pretty abrasive way to start a movie, it certainly sets the tone that the rest of the movie follows.

3. The Supporting Cast Is Uniformly Terrific...
Listen, everybody in "Fury" (the movie and the tank) is terrific. These are actors doing some capital-A acting, with the cast going through a rigorous boot camp experience that seems to have systematically broken them down and built them back up. (There's also the incident when some of the guys beat up Scott Eastwood because he spit on their tank.) They are caked in mud and scared with the wounds of war (some of them quite literally -- Shia cut himself). But alas...

4. ...Although They Don't Have Much to Do
...These are characters who you'd probably see on any black-and-white war movie that they play late at night on TCM (except with more cursing and without the genial introduction). There's the guy with the mysterious past, the guy who reads the Bible a lot, the Mexican guy, the new guy, and the borderline psychopath guy (that's Bernthal, bumming everyone out after playing such an effervescent character in "Wolf of Wall Street"). These are stock characters, through and through, more two-dimensional than any animated sprite.

5. Clichés Riddle the Tank as Much as Bullets
And the characters' lack of depth speaks to the overall banality of "Fury." It's full of raging war movie clichés, and while the filmmakers clearly try to give it a gritty, harsher feel (hence all of that bloody violence), it feels just as phony as any of the classic war pictures. It's insanely been-there, fought-that, and, just to roll out the "Inglourious Basterds" analogy one last time, lacking in that film's unpredictability and willingness to deconstruct the war movie genre with gleeful abandon. "Fury" sticks to its guns. And it's a drag.

6. Jokes Are One of the Casualties of War
You know another thing "Inglourious Basterds" had that "Fury" doesn't? Jokes. Now, I'm not asking for it to be a laugh-a-minute joke-coaster, but a movie that is this single-mindedly grim feels artificial and forced. Yes, war is the worst. But these are actual human beings driving and operating this tank, and last I checked, human beings, even in the darkest of circumstances, manage to crack jokes every once in a while.

7. There's a Lot of Mud
Everyone is covered in mud from beginning to end. The tank rolls through an endless sea of mud. Brad Pitt makes mud seem sexy. Mud has more screen time than Lerman and Pena combined. It is the great equalizer. And makes it somewhat confusing to tell the actors apart. In mud we trust.

8. Steven Price's Score Is Great
One of the more rousing aspects of "Fury" is its dynamite score by "Gravity" composer Steven Price. Price rose through the ranks, first acting as the kind of go-between when a famous group or artist was called in to do a score (this was his primary duty when he worked on things like "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"). Then he started composing more of his own cues; his "bridge" capacity became more substantial and entrenched. (He shares a lot of songwriting credit with Basement Jaxx on "Attack the Block.") But then he started doing his own scores, including the hypnotic, heart-pounding score for "Fury." There are times when this movie is almost unbearably intense; Price has a lot to do with that.

9. If You're Worried About Missing It Because of Its Oscar Chances... Don't
Once upon a time, Sony was positioning "Fury" as a serious Oscar contender, with a prime time November release date and full-court marketing push. But then things got dialed back, with a mid-October release date and somewhat less substantial marketing attack. So if you were thinking about seeing "Fury" because of its eventual Oscar chances, please don't. It's just not that good. And fails to hit that sweet, inspirational spot most war movies have to achieve in order to receive Academy recognition (if there's one World War II movie that seems positioned to snap up all the Oscar nominations, it's "Unbroken," directed by Pitt's wife, Angelina Jolie). Move it along, nothing to see here...

10. It's L-O-N-G
It's only 134 minutes, which is shorter than "Gone Girl." But it's a far more grueling slog and feels much, much longer. When I emerged from the screening room, some of my loved ones failed to recognize me.

Based on 47 critics

A tank commander takes his men on a deadly mission to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany. Read More

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November 11, 2016
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categories Movies, Reviews