Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Fury": Not Quite "Platoon," But Not Far From It

Overall: 3.25/4 Stars

Wow. Simply, Wow. As impressive a WWII movie as I have ever experienced, right up there with Saving Private Ryan. Dare I say it, Brad Pitt plays the hard-bitten, war-scarred sergeant who leads a tank crew of men who would be best described as one step down from freaks extremely well, with the fresh faced newbie put the ultimate baptism of fire, the horrors of war on full display. It's over the top gore, blood, explosions, and heavy machinery. It's the tank movie I've longed for.

And yet...from barely five minutes in, I become more and more horrified at the portrait David Ayer paints, not at the war itself (if there is anything I have learned from studying history, it is that Wardaddy's (Pitt) assertion that "ideals are peaceful, history is violent") but rather at how men, even ostensibly "good" men, are twisted, beaten down, corrupted, and scarred to the point that what stands before us is not a complete human being, but rather a fragment thereof. Ayer rips apart the idea of the noble soldier and instead shows us a monster, and it's all the more terrifying that the monster is us. Even the best of them is dehumanized to the point that, despite my almost sick pleasure at watching SS soldiers die by the dozens, mowed down by machine gun fire and blasted to pieces by tank shells, I have no pleasure watching the untainted soldier of the group, Norman, dragged into the abyss and back out. To be honest, it sickened me to watch as the other crew members around him show little to no real signs of humanity, save for "Bible" (Shia LeBoeuf) and Wardaddy, and those only sparingly.

I realize that this was not a movie meant to glorify war or America's place in it. No, this war is carnage. This WWII is not noble, not the "good fight;" no, this is HELL. But be that as it may, it was a human war, and with that comes every possible human emotion and every conceivable kind of human act of compassion and mercy as well as cruelty and hate. It would have been nice to see more than the quaint and fleeting moments of true humanity in the film, and even those were blown to pieces in form or another (watch the film to see what I mean). It's as if Ayer is saying that civilization, anything remotely civilized, has no place in war. War, it seems, is off the map, the domain of monsters and demons. He is, in my opinion, both right and wrong: right because it is the domain of monsters and demons, but wrong in that humanity and civilization have no place in it. Without those restraining qualities, what would remain after a total war like the one Ayer shows us? T.S. Eliot knew: a wasteland. Tacitus tells us the same: "They make a desert, and call it peace." I personally would be no more at home in the world after the kind of war that Ayer seems to entreat that we fight than I would be in a world where Germany was victorious (thank God it was not so).

What I take away from the movie is a more complete hatred of modern industrial warfare and of modern political ideology, a hatred and contempt that I share with my philosophical mentor, Russell Kirk. It churns out death on a scale that is unfathomable and is the ruin of nations and cultures and communities, of morality, ethics, and true religion and faith. I hate it with every fiber of my being. But more than war, I hate ideology. War must sometimes be fought-that's flat. But ideology kills just as easily as war-perhaps easier. After all, ideology could (and did) kill 10 or 20 or 50 million people at a time on an industrial scale without the loss of a single life among those doing the killing. And those that it does not kill outright it will maim mind and soul.

 Modern political ideologies exacerbate our inhumanity and harness it for their own ends, ends that often require a blood sacrifice of millions to achieve. That is on full display in Fury, with American soldiers and German civilians serve as the sacrifice by the truckload on the altar of modernity and ideology and "progress." May God spare us such a future.

Concluding remarks: Fury is a movie that grabs you by the neck, beats the ever-loving crap out of you, kicks you with steel-toed boots, shoves your face in the blood-choked mud, then picks you up, dusts you off, gives you a drink, and then does it all over again. The battle sequences are superb, the acting hit and miss (exceptions: Pitt and Logan Lerman, who play the two main characters), the atmosphere greasy, iron-hulled, and psychotic. The perfect movie for war junkies, not recommended for those with sensitive souls (or stomachs). What humanity is shown is not enough to fill the shell-sized hole that Ayer's portrait of WWII takes out of us, and we are left hollow and fighting nightmares at the end.