David Ayer’s new film “Fury” has the moral complexity of a butter knife. There are four dudes inside a tank who take their orders from Brad Pitt. It’s like being in Aldo Raine’s dorm room, except you don’t have the shock value of Tarantino’s cleverness.
All of these characters are types, Shia LaBeuf is “Bible,” who recites scripture and who’s eyes scream alcoholism, Michael Pena is the token Latino with witty jokes, and that dude who was once on “The Walking Dead” (Jon Bernthal) is the angry I’m-a-bad-man-as-a-result-of-my-surroundings guy. But, all of them are macho infused war geeks that get by on the justifiable angst of war.
When Logan Lerman is introduced (as subtly as an elephant in a living room) to serve as the audience’s point of view, he’s also too much of a stereotype. Lerman cries and fights against the horrors of the war. But, the war keeps horrifying around him and no one else shares this attempt at emotional torment, which renders the universe of the film as uneven. Lerman is oversensitive, and because of it everyone else comes across as insensitive.
There’s a particular scene that aspires to give the film room to breath and the characters to finally act human. Lerman and Pitt’s characters see a woman hiding in an apartment removed from the chaos of the square in which they just finished fighting. They go upstairs and find two women, one young and one older, you assume it’s mother and daughter. Pitt controls the scene in silence, and Lerman plays a beautiful song on the piano.
It’s a scene that almost breaks the dry machismo of the film and potentially makes it spiral down a rabbit hole of moral confusion. Instead, in the span of a couple minutes Lerman and the young girl have had sex, and not dirty war sex, but adorable puppy-love sex. The rest of the movie keeps trying to do exactly that.
It hints at moral exhaustion and adaptability, but these characters and their emotions seem attached to a veneer of war-ness and audience approval. The director wants you to root for these people, which is why Lerman is weak but nonetheless gets laid, and Pitt does nothing wrong.
“Fury” is the kind of film that achieves nothing in the realm of human analysis during a time as emotionally wrecking as World War II, instead opting for “Transformers” in a trench coat. Optimus Prime is the tank these men ride in, and the fight scenes are great. But, it aches my movie-geek heart to see more films that glorify the human decay of war, and qualify German soldiers as zombies fighting for evil while the Americans are the hero’s.
There’s an artistic statement waiting to be made in this film, and its that there is no good or bad, there is just survival. I know that the message was there attempting to be delivered, but without three-dimensional characters, the film deviates into just-another-movie-with-guns territory, where the bad guys have little redeeming qualities and the good guys are married to Angelina Jolie.