War is Hellacious in “Fury”
By Skip Sheffield
“War is Hell!” General William Techumseh Sherman famously declared.
Sherman knew only too well. He was an early advocate of “Total War,” which he demonstrated with a vengeance with his infamous, devastating “March to the Sea” through Georgia in the War Between the States.
“Fury” puts the viewer in the center of a “Total War.” The story is set in the desperate last days of World War II in Germany, April 1945. Allied forces are attempting to conquer Germany, town by town, and the Nazis have desperately pressed into service every man, woman and child to fight back. Those who refused were hanged as traitors.
Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is a scarred veteran of the war who commands a Sherman tank (note the name) which has the hand-painted word “Fury” on its cannon barrel.
Contrasting with courageous, confident Collier is a new recruit named Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), who has been pulled out of a typing pool and pressed into service as a tank gunner.
In a plot device that echoes Stephen Crane’s “Red Badge of Courage,” Norman will spend the rest of the story ridiculed and shunned until he mans up and becomes the killing machine he is ordered to be.
There is nothing pretty or light about “Fury.” There is some rough humor amongst the rag-tag tank crew, which includes Michael Pena as driver Trini “Gordo” Garcia, Jon Bernthal as obnoxious good old Georgia boy Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis, Jim Parrack as the level-headed Sgt. Binkowski and Shia LaBoeuf as the religious, moral voice, Boyd “Bible” Swan.
There are only two women of note in the story. As the tank presses further inland it encounters a bombed-out village in which two women are hiding in a building. Collier and Norman Ellison scout the building and encounter a German woman named Irma (Anamaria Marinca) and her pretty young niece Emma (Alicia von Rittberg). It is love at first sight for Norman and Emma, but it is a sadly brief interlude.
The main problem with “Fury” is that most of us have already heeded Sherman’s warning. You don’t have to be a veteran to know war is a terrible thing, but perhaps people need to be reminded again and again. Remember “The Alamo.”