Thursday, 30 October 2014

Fury: the Pitts of the Ayerth

Fury contains one thing which has never been shown on screen before; an actual working Tiger tank. The go-to German tank in World War Two movies has always been the Tiger, but up until now it’s always been something else with - if they were feeling especially diligent - some plywood slapped on to make the shape less wrong. Even though Allied tankers thought everything they saw was a Tiger, and that it was a super tank which nothing could destroy, in reality the Germans only made about 1300 of them and less than a dozen actually survived the war. 

This is good news for a tiny number of people who’ve always grumbled under their breath “That’s not a real Tiger.” though they’ll still have plenty to grumble about while the Tiger’s on screen duking it out with Brad Pitt’s Sherman at ranges which actual WWII soldiers would have thought a bit intimate for bayonet drill.

For the rest of it, this is another David Ayer movie. This is the WWII one, rather than the LAPD one, but it’s the same old schtick of naive putz thrown into the company of a rampaging middle-aged arsehole who’s been let away with murder because he gets results goddamit. This week, it’s Brad Pitt in the Denzel role, and Logan Lerman in the role of Ethan Hawke. Neither Denzel nor Ethan will be losing any sleep. The only suspense is just how long it’s going to take before Pitt bites the big one, and how satisfying it’s going to be when he gets his comeuppance.

Blistering idiocy cuts in early, as Logan Lerman’s moping Norman shows up out of the blue to be assigned to Brad Pitt’s elite tank crew despite being a company typist with no tank training of any kind. Put to one side the questions about why high command would assign a complete waste of space to one of their highest performing tank crews; I accept that high command are easily that stupid in all wars. Just ask yourself how the hell high command even knew there was a vacancy to be filled. Norman shows up within minutes of Brad returning to a base that plainly had no idea that he was even alive, let alone that he’d just lost his bow gunner (the one job in a tank where conceivably an untrained man MIGHT be able to get by without getting everyone killed in the first five minutes).

Because magic, that’s how. Ayer’s formula requires a relateable audience surrogate, or Logan Lerman if that’s all that’s available. Pah.

Moving on. Brad and the rest of the US Army spend an hour or so apparently in a competition to see if they can make the audience root a bit for the SS for once, which is almost as much fun as it sounds for the audience. There’s a case to be made for a balanced look at the impact of total war on the people who fight it, but I’d argue that the way to go is to humanise the traditional bad guys, not dehumanise the traditional good guys. So Brad straight up murders a random German prisoner to make a point about the need for Norman to kill Germans, and once the US Army manages to take a German town they act like Hells Angels with candy bars. Combat starts to feel like a relief.

Finally, the mighty forces of the Wehrmacht manage to take down the war criminal Brad Pitt, after he decides to treat his broken down Sherman like a pill box and try to hold off an infantry battalion. It takes them ages, but they valiantly soak up all the bullets in the tank until it hasn’t any bullets any more, and then open the turret hatch and drop in two grenades. Which have such long fuses that Norman can get out of the tank through the belly hatch before they go off. Hours later, he clambers back in to the tank to pay his last respects to the rest of the crew. Miraculously, despite the fact that concussion and ricocheting shrapnel should have reduced everyone inside the tank to soup, Brad’s looking better than Norman. Which, in some ways, is not the weirdest thing about the grenades through the hatch plan. First, there’s the problem of that infantry battalion walking towards us on screen, with every fourth guy carrying a Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon. When they’re confronted with an actual tank, suddenly the only Panzerfausts are four in a packing case, and only one of them works. Second, precisely because it would be tremendously inconvenient if people could clamber onto your tank and just chuck stuff into the turret, hatches had latches. 

Still, it’s a once in a lifetime chance to see a real Tiger do something unrealistic. No, that’s really not enough. The completely fake Tiger in this is a better use of your time.

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