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Fire and <em>Fury</em>

(Sony Pictures)

Movie

Fire and Fury

New Brad Pitt movie provides a harrowing look at what, and who, it takes to win a war

Perhaps not since Saving Private Ryan has a war film featured such harrowing, realistic scenes of bloodshed as Brad Pitt’s latest, Fury. Yet while the carnage is frequent and unrelenting (along with regular profanity, it earns the film a strong R rating), with the exception of one brief scene, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. This is what wars require, writer/director David Ayer (who served in the U.S. Navy and is the grandson of two decorated World War II officers) seems to be saying. And these are the kind of men required to win them.

The story centers on tank commander Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) and his embattled crew. They are in the final days of World War II, deep in German territory, in a Sherman tank that is far inferior to the ones they’re up against. They have just lost a long-time brother-in-arms and discover that his replacement is a young typist with no battlefield experience. Outgunned and outnumbered, with no time to train the new recruit, they set out on a crucial mission.

Introducing a rookie into a group of grizzled, been-everywhere-seen-everything veterans is a common war-film setup, but it’s still gripping to watch the green, erudite Norman (Logan Lerman) learn what service and honor are really about. He’s appalled by what he considers Collier’s unethical actions, but that’s because he’s had the luxury of assigning ethics without consequences. “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent,” Collier informs him.

Many tepid mainstream reviews of Fury seem to miss Ayer’s point, which, along with the actual content of the movie, he’s made abundantly clear in interviews. “I drew a lot of parallels between the fanaticism of Nazi Germany and the fanaticism of Al-Qaeda,” he told one outlet. “That was something that I wanted to communicate with people. Even though it was literally a fight of good against evil and it had an incredibly positive outcome, the individual man fighting was just as tired, scared and freaked out as a guy operating a base in Afghanistan.”

Throughout the film Collier and his men joke that being a soldier is “the best job I ever had.” They don’t mean it merely sarcastically, though there is an edge of that in the line. The greater meaning is that it is the best job despite the risk of life and the trauma of taking life because it holds significance. There is a moral purpose in what they do. Though they will bear the physical and psychological scars of their time in the fight for the rest of their lives, the fight is worthy. This is especially evidenced by the character of Boyd “Bible” Swan (played by a phenomenal Shia LaBeouf).

This may go down hard with some readers, but I actually like that the evangelical Boyd drinks, smokes, and swears with the rest of the crew, though he does not join them in soliciting sex or stealing. He is a real, flesh-and-blood proselytizer who sometimes makes light of his Christian persona but never makes light of his Christianity. Yes, at times Boyd’s fleshly fear and grief win out over his reborn spirit (as it would with anyone in his situation), yet his faith is deeper than superficial rule-keeping. When other soldiers are stripping dying German combatants of their valuables, Boyd holds their hands and whispers into their ears, urging them in their last moments to call on the name of Christ and be saved. He offers an affecting image of an unconflicted heart carrying out the duties of country and Creator simultaneously.

The American soldiers of World War II were hard men. Violent men. But they were good men, and we are wrong—childish, even—to think the two things mutually exclusive. Indeed, you can’t help wondering as you watch Fury how long our double-minded American culture will be capable of producing leaders like Sgt. Don Collier. And what will become of us when it isn’t?

Comments

  • gfkdzdds
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:40 pm

    More than a little late to the conversation as I just watched the film twice "on demand."  I found the movie one of the better war films of the past 20 years.  LaBeouf's character is flawed but his faith seems to center him.  Most people smoked in the 40's (remember the tobacco companies were making sure GI's would get hooked) and his swearing doesn't seem gratuitous,.  It seems to be more the result of a man who has spent 3 years in hell seeing and doing things that most of us cannot comprehend.  How many of us have hit our thumb with a hammer and uttered something sinful?  Nowhere does the film show violence just to show violence.  It does show men doing what was necessary to stay alive and stop the most evil regime in history.  My father returned from 5 years in the Pacific during WW!! with a serious case of PTSD.  My mother said he left a kind man and returned with a violent temper. Occasionally, he would try and tell our family something humorous that happened during the war.  Often, my sisters and I would laugh and tell him to stop.  He found the Lord late in his life (he died in 1996) but it wasn't until i saw "Saving Private Ryan" that I had even the remotest conception of what he went through. I remember walking to the parking lot, getting in my car and crying for 15 minutes.  Why had I ever stopped him from relating those stories??  If you haven't walked in a combat vet's shoes, don't say anything but "Thank you." Great review Megan.  Keep up the good work.

  • Johnny Red
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:40 pm

    Good review!  Can't wait to see this movie!  And I appreciate the comments  about swearing and drinking etc..  I don't know too many Christians (myself included) who don't let slip the occasional profanity (and I really enjoy beer and the occasional cigar).  Not a big deal to me, since its a more true depiction of real life and real Christians.  I also love movies and books about hard men doing hard things for a good purpose.

  • GTPman
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:40 pm

    Oh pooh, fellas, Megan is giving this flick her best shot.  The director at least gave scope for a believer who takes his faith seriously enough to show compassion for another human being though an enemy.  I will go see the movie because we people of this era are so drawn to the conflict that offered as clear an argument for a just war as any known.  Those who fought in the war were just folks, my beer-drinking Catholic uncle was one of them.  A number were Christian and not all these answered to the pure ideals that many an armchair stalwart would weave into their storyline.  One of the things that struck me about the scripture is the unadorned and unabashed reporting of the actions and words of real world warriors.  Gideon, Samson, David, ... called men of faith who were yet men coarsened by real conflict.  Even rabbi Paul gives angry vent to his frustration with Judaizers, "They should go all the way and cut off everything!"  So the director chose to give us a Christian with clay feet, at least his feet had been in real mud.  Darn it, guys, go prop your feet up somewhere else, we other guys at this pickle barrel are just gnawing our pipes and jawing.

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:40 pm

    I guess what concerns me about the review is that many young men and women will assume from what was said that cursing and swearing are OK on the battlefield.  As long as we whisper the four spiritual laws to dying men we can talk any way we want.  This would seem to promote the idea that "I live just like you do but still I am redeemed".  Could not the others be redeemed and still do all they were doing?  Christianity is more than keeping rules but should we encourage the abandonment of those rules simply because no one keeps them perfectly?  Many readers may take my comments with a grain of salt.  I don't go to R-rated movies because I believe what we watch changes our attitudes and makes sin more acceptable.   

  • boyikr's picture
    boyikr
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:40 pm

    mlbash............... sarcasm? really?

  • mlbasham
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:40 pm

    HI Tfarr,
    Due to space, I won't comment here on ideals (which, I would
    argue along with the film are usually impossible to implement and uphold in a
    evil world filled with evil regimes and leaders without the use of violence), but perhaps
    I should clarify on the swearing.  I wasn't
    referring to the character taking the Lord's name in vain (he may have, though
    I can't recall that).  I meant more
    garden variety profanity which he uses with alacrity. To me it seemed a
    realistic fault in a realistic (and empathetic and complex) Christian character in that situation.
    Hope that clears things up a bit.
    Blessings,M

  • JuliaW
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:40 pm

    Yes!! The doctrine of vocation. You serve Christ by serving your neighbor--wherever God has placed you. Including as a soldier. God works through imperfect men and women. Because, on this earth, that is all there is.

  • Tfarr
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 01:40 pm

    There are several things that concern me about this review.  One is the downplaying of swearing as a serious sin in the eyes of God.  Taking the Lord's name in vain is in the category of stealing and sexual immorality not smoking and drinking.  To like the fact that the Christian character engages in swearing lessens the seriousness of our words in the sight of a holy God.  Should we not long to see a Christian turning from cursing as well as stealing and fornication.The other thing that concerned me was the seeming endorsement of the quote: "Ideals are peaceful.  History is violent."  Ideals are foundational for how we view war.  War may be necessary at times but it's goal should be justice and peace not violence.  If the soldiers depicted in this film served with a moral purpose, as you say, it is because they had ideals