“Fury” is a movie that is as dark and sinister as any you will see this year. Taking place in April 1945 deep in Germany, it tells the barely watchable story of an American tank commander and his colleagues who have largely lost the ability to remain sane in a world gone mad.
The sergeant leading the crew is Don “Wardaddy” Collier, played in another daring role by Brad Pitt. He lives by the rule laid down by George C. Scott in his Oscar winning portrayal in “Patton” (1970), “Boys, the only rule of war is to kill the other poor, dumb son of a bitch before he kills you.” That might as well have been Wardaddy’s motto.
Three longtime members of his squad are Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and John Bernthal, playing Boyd “Bible” Swan, Trini “Gordo” Garcia and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis, respectively. They have come close to losing their connection with any type of normalcy, and you learn literally nothing about their life before the war, including whether any of them are married.
There is nothing remotely affectionate about any of them, yet you come to the strong conclusion that war has made mobsters out of all of them. There is a moment where Wardaddy finds a bottle of saved whiskey in his tank, and he urges all his comrades to take a drink, sarcastically noting that they probably won’t be alive to suffer a hangover the next morning.
Set apart from the above crew is a new addition, Norman Ellison. Played by Logan Lerman in the only truly standout performance in the film, he is a guy who has only been in the military a couple of months. He thought he was going to be used as a typist-clerk, but he suddenly finds himself joining Wardaddy’s crew. He is continually reminded that he will amount to nothing unless he embraces the satisfaction of killing a German.
Norman is appalled, and continually resists waking up as an American vampire on a tank. However, with their undeniable goal being to destroy as many Germans as possible, you know that he will agree to take his metaphoric trip across the River Styx sooner rather than later. His transformation here is genuinely heartbreaking. Lerman is a fine actor as previously demonstrated playing Ham in this year’s “Noah” and Charlie in last year’s phenomenally overlooked “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
As I watched this movie, I was reminded of the way politicians praise the veterans of World War II as being members of the “Greatest Generation.” In the process, I am also reminded of the father of one of my close friends in grade school back in Batesville, Indiana, a man who worked in a factory and kept exclusively to himself. We always were told to keep a distance from Malcolm, as he was a bit mentally unsettled following his service in World War II.
With “Fury,” director David Ayer has brought us a film about a bunch of Malcolms. How can you expect many of them to return to civilization when the memory of it has been forcibly removed from their brains?
Director Matthew Warchus’ “Pride” is not simply a magnificent film, but stands out as the best picture I’ve seen in 2014. Dancing in the same league as “Begin Again,” it represents film making done at its very best.
Taking place largely in Wales in 1984, the cinematography by Tat Radcliffe is as breathtaking as the stunning musical score by Christopher Nightingale. Based on a true story, it centers on the gay rights movement joining forces with striking British miners who are collectively being beleaguered by Margaret Thatcher’s insensitive government.
The miners’ union is led by a number of spectacular actors who you will embrace from the moment that you see them.
However, it is the members of the gay community who will warm your heart. Ben Schnetzer plays Mark, an Irish organizer who leads the gay movement. He joins forces with the eccentric Jonathan (Dominic West) and his partner, Gethin (Andrew Scott), to spur their activist group to raise funds for the miners. In the process, Joe (George MacKay), a passive ally, returns to a Welsh homeland he left 18 years ago after suffering massive abuse for his sexuality. His reunion with his mother is one of the most powerful moments you will see on film.
There are some other memorable performances, one coming from Freddie Fox. He does a great job playing Jeff, a young college student wrestling with his sexuality who has to suffer ostracism by his own family in order to be true to himself. Additionally, Faye Marsay is a chain-smoking lesbian (Steph) with a red hairstyle to die for. First and foremost, she was a young woman who took crap from no one.
The movie’s climax happens in two stages, and it will make you come close to applauding at the end of the film. Let me just say that when union cynics try to reject the support of gay friends, a gigantic “Gay Pride/Miners Concert” is held that will make you wish you were on screen dancing with them.
While I doubt that the film will be recognized at Oscar time, it should be on the music alone. There is a moment at the union hall when our two groups were still trying to feel each other out. Suddenly, a young woman associated with the miners stands up and sings one of the most poignant songs you will ever hear. The crowd slowly stands up and joins her, and at that moment you know that you are watching a film that makes the cinema so special.•
• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.