Fury is an intense, well-acted World War II movie starring Brad Pitt. There are some grisly images — a severed face, for example — that reflect one of the goals of writer-director David Ayer (End of Watch), who was a sonar operator on an attack submarine in the 1980s. According to a piece in The New York Times, Ayer wanted to document the extremes endured and inflicted by Allied soldiers that entered Germany in the spring of 1945.

We've seen all sorts of nightmarish acts in war movies starting with Vietnam and continuing through the recent wars. Ayer believes that the "greatest generation" has been treated differently on film, that their efforts are presented as cleaner and more noble than those of the Boomers and beyond. He wanted to dig into the incidents the WWII veterans don't talk about.

Ayer saw big parallels between those fighting and dying back then, even as Germany's surrender was imminent, and soldiers battling in places like Afghanistan, even as American engagement there is coming to an end.

So he introduces us to the crew of a tank called Fury that are headed into Germany after fighting together all the way from North Africa. Sgt. Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Pitt) is their leader. His team is made up of the deeply religious Boyd "Bible" Swan (Shia LaBeouf), determined and heavy drinking Trini "Gordo" Garcia (Michael Pena) and hillbilly mechanic Grady "Coon-Ass" Travis (Jon Bernthal). They are joined by an inexperienced typist named Norman (Logan Lerman), the designated audience proxy for this trip into hell.

The production follows the crew for 24 hours, from dawn to dawn, in a battle-filled trek that includes a striking interlude. While exploring a town taken over by the Yanks, Wardaddy — who speaks fluent German — and Norman encounter a German woman named Irma (Anamaria Marinca) and her attractive teenage daughter, Emma (Alicia von Rittberg).

Wardaddy offers food to the frightened pair and his civility lessens the tension. Before long, Norman and Emma retire to a bedroom while Wardaddy and the mother chat. Then Gordo and Coon-Ass show up, drunk and ready for sexual release. The potential for violence thickens the air. But wait, was what we witnessed before the intrusion really anything more than genteel sexual assault?

Director Ayer makes a mistake during the scene. He shows Wardaddy shirtless in the background. When the man turns around we see his burn-scarred back, which is shocking and sad. Except that's not how it works. Instead we see Brad Pitt — a celebrity who, along with David Beckham, is the male most cited by straight guys as the one they'd pick if they ever were going to do it with a guy — shirtless and we think, "Damn, he still looks incredible!" When he turns around, we note the scar makeup and think, "Hell, he still looks hot from behind, too!" So much for being lost in the movie.

Ultimately, Fury plays like an old school World War II movie with dollops of ultra-violence added here and there. Despite fine performances by the cast, we still end up with a group of types: the father figure, the Godly soul, the sweet redneck, the capable drunk and the innocent. They fight and fight, with colorful tracers (red and green – Christmassy!) that make the action easier to follow, leading to an epic battle at the end that includes noble sacrifice. I'm not making light of any of this: Fury is a good movie. But if David Ayers thinks he has made a film containing daring revelations about the soldiers that fought in WWII, he is sorely mistaken.


Dracula Untold

★★ (out of five)

Untold my ass! The title makes it sound like a return to the original book. But no, this is just another Underworld-style exercise in “who cares?” Facts about the life of the “historical” Dracula are mixed with elements of Bram Stoker's book. Who would have thought Dracula (okay, Vlad) was just a daddy that became a vampire in order to save his son and other boys from a warmonger? Damn the locals for not appreciating his sacrifice! The battle scenes suffer from obscured views and excessive computer animation. The whole project suffers from the fact that vampires have been done to death. No need for wooden stakes. They died of boredom.


Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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