If Fury is still out in a theater close to you, please go see it. Unless you're a minor in which case, you can't and shouldn't. Also, if you're not a fan of gore or extreme violence, you should skip this one. And, if you're looking for an action-packed adventure movie, then you won't enjoy this either. Actually, most people won't appreciate this film for what it is, but just take my word for it: It is damn good.
It is crucial that we never mistake form for function. That is to say, if a movie has all the trappings of an action-adventure war film, with its grizzled, womanizing soldiers, shooting guns and fightin' for the good guys, it doesn't necessarily mean it's being glorified. Fury may perhaps be the most blatantly anti-war movie since Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
The story follows 4 soldiers who have essentially lived inside a tank -- named Fury -- for the entirety of World War II. (I think at one point, the commanding officer -- played by Brad Pitt -- mentions that they fought in North Africa, then Italy and now are in Germany in 1945.) Before the opening of this film, one of their fellow soldiers who has been inside the tank with them has been killed, and a painfully unqualified new recruit takes his place. It is his story that we follow throughout the film.
The new recruit is critical for two reasons. One, for the obvious storytelling aspect of it, that a character unfamiliar to the events going on around him needs things explained and shown to him. We learn quite a bit about the war through him. It also serves a greater purpose and the overall message of the film. By connecting us with this rookie soldier who still maintains a sense of morality and righteousness, we see how different he is from the other soldiers who have been in the war for quite a while. As a result, the humanity of the other soldiers fades further and further away.
The beginning of the film is fire and blood and barking orders. You get your ass in that tank and clean it real good, maggot. I know we're all sad about Red's death but we gonna kill some Nazis. You shoot those children before they shoot you.
These moments -- which, by the way, are not limited to the opening of the film -- had an additional effect besides showing how hardened and tough these veteran soldiers have become. I think it's fair to see that out of all wars, we tend to glorify World War II the most in America. That was "the good war", and its soldiers are the greatest generation. This film immediately shocks you by showing them more than just tough soldiers. These are truly disgusting. They kill prisoners of war for no reason. They fight among themselves. That line about killing children was paraphrased from the movie. They are heartless. Truthfully though, this is probably how soldiers during this era really behaved. We are fooling ourselves if we think that any soldier can behave righteously during a time of war.
Therein lies the true antagonist in Fury. War itself is the problem. These men are not losing their humanity because they're awful people. Indeed, they show a great deal of nobility and kindness hidden past their gruff and disgusting exteriors. They were probably all really nice guys in the 1930s. However, it's the war and the death that has turned their hearts cold. It's an emotionless pragmatism to stay alive that leads them to idea that they should shoot a child or a prisoner. This is of course, unconscionable behavior under any circumstance, but the movie does not paint the soldiers as maniacs or murderers. They are instead victims of the war they're in. They are not distant from the civilians around them because they were originally heartless, but because they have seen so much death and pain that they can't handle any more.
I really do want you to go see this movie. A lot of scenes are physically repulsive, but that is their intention. The movie wants you to be disgusted and offended by the violence, because that is what a real war looks like. (Sidenote: The film is so violent that a few scenes needed to be censored here in Korea where I saw it.) The whole thing makes me wonder about what a film's purpose really is. This movie is engaging; almost every scene is tense, knowing that someone might be killed at any second. However, it's not an enjoyable experience to sit through in a strict sense. The movie seeks to make you disquieted, frightened and disgusted by the war you're watching on the screen, and it certainly succeeds in several of those aspects. It left me feeling pretty disturbed by the end (especially after the haunting final lines in the film, which I invite you to consider deeply if you see this movie.) My only true complaint is that the last act is a bit too long, and a bit too tedious and somewhat disjointed from the rest of the film. (I remarked to one of my friends afterwards that I wonder what would have happened if the film had ended prior to this last part. I'm not entirely convinced that's a good idea now, but I still contend that the final act is relatively vacuous compared to the very dense 2/3 of the movie preceding it.)
Also, don't be a dummy like me and see this movie while on a date.