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Review – Fury (15) [2014]

Fury - title banner

Star Rating: 3/5

Director:

  • David Ayer – Harsh Times, End Of Watch, Sabotage

Cast:

  • Brad Pitt – Snatch, Mr & Mrs Smith, 12 Years A Slave, The Big Short
  • Shia Lebeouf – Disturbia, Transformers I-III, Nymphomaniac I-II, Man Down
  • Logan Lerman – 3:10 To Yuma, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Percy Jackson I-II, Noah
  • Michael Peña – Crash, End Of Watch, The Lincoln Lawyer, The Martian
  • Jon Bernthal – The Air I Breathe, The Ghost, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Sicario
  • Jason Isaacs – Black Hawk Down, Windtalkers, Harry Potter I-VII(i) & VII(ii), Stockholm, Pennsylvania

Music Composer:

  • Steven Price – The World’s End, Gravity

The topic of World War II (WWII) is well trodden territory in Hollywood. Seeing stellar American soldiers gunning down Nazis and ‘Japs’ has been revisited on many, many occasions as Saving Private Ryan, Pearl Harbour, Band Of Brothers, Flags Of Our Fathers, and Red Tails testify, to name a handful. Unsurprisingly, after such a high volume of movies on the topic in the last two decades alone, there is a sterile and samey feel to WWII films, unless a new film adds something unseen to the genre. Alas, Fury does not do this.

Young Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman, inside right) joining his crew of tank-men, and being derided for his inexperience by Boyd (Shia Lebeouf), 'Gordo' (Michael Peña) and 'Coon-Ass' (Jon Bernthal).

Young Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman, inside right) joining his crew of tank-men, and being derided for his inexperience by Boyd (Shia Lebeouf), ‘Gordo’ (Michael Peña) and ‘Coon-Ass’ (Jon Bernthal).

The film is fictional and begins in 1945. The Allies are advancing into Nazi Germany, and Fury, the name of the tank led by Sergeant ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt), is in one of the regiments leading the assault into the Fatherland. Including Sergeant Collier, the tank consists of a five man crew: Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia Lebeouf), Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal), Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Peña), and newcomer Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman).

As the crew push deeper into Germany, Sergeant Collier takes it upon himself to educate young Ellison about the brutal nature of war and how to deal with it, as the personality of the enemy sinks to ever more depraved levels.

Fury’s premise is simple and the film sticks to it rigidly. Fury has a raw, muddy, and claustrophobic feel to it. One gains a true insight into what it must have been like (and probably still is like) for a group of soldiers inside a tank while fighting in a war. The movie shows how the crew’s situation turns from uneventful to frenzied chaos upon the rippling of a machine gun or the boom of an explosion. Suffice to say, there is plenty of both and all the action scenes are well done.

Sergeant 'Wardaddy' Collier (Brad Pitt) thinking over a key decision that he has to make.

Sergeant ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) thinking over a key decision that he has to make.

Another aspect of Fury that’s done well is the developing relationship between Sergeant Collier/Brad Pitt and Norman Ellison/Logan Lerman. This is because David Ayer’s script is good and the actors perform their roles well, particularly Pitt as the grizzled but caring war-veteran. To Pitt’s credit, in a film which he dominates, he manages to hold viewer’s attention, whether it is with Ellison, the other members of his band of brothers, other American soldiers, or Germans. Pitt’s/Collier’s character is most interesting and revealing when he is teaching Ellison/Lerman about the nature of the Nazi enemy as audiences get to see the complexities in his character.

Yet, as a corollary of Pitt dominating the film, the rest of the non-peripheral members of the cast don’t get enough screen time to illustrate that they are much more than (lazy) personifications of their nicknames. (Nevertheless, they do get time enough to praise Sergeant Collier/Brad Pitt. For which film starring Brad Pitt wouldn’t give the supporting cast time to applaud him?) That the other characters are not given adequate screen time is a bit of a shame as the actors all do good jobs with what they’re given; even, shockingly, the much-derided Shia Lebeouf!

Other than Fury being (yet another) glorification of Brad Pitt, the film lacks direction and the storyline does not go anywhere as a result. Arguably, the movie never intends to build up to a climax (although it half does); and, instead, merely goes out to highlight the grisly, ghastly and inhumane horrors of war, merely from the angle of tank crewmen. Yet, if this were the case, Fury does not go far enough. Many criminal elements and horrors of war/WWII are not shown in the film, especially in comparison to the harrowing Schindler’s List and The City Of Life And Death.

What a surprise! Sergeant Collier/Brad Pitt takes off his shirt, gives himself a wash, and shows off his abs to put most men to shame. Haven't we seen this before? (Fight Club? Troy?)

What a surprise! Sergeant Collier/Brad Pitt takes off his shirt, gives himself a wash, and shows off his abs to put most men to shame. Haven’t we seen this before? (Fight Club? Troy?)

Additionally, Fury lacks depth. There are several occasions when some of the cast talk about criminal acts they’ve committed during the war. They may talk about it with remorse, but no-one ever questions their actions. This renders the scene frustrating because the film misses the chance to explore the moral conscience of each character, and pointless because it means that such scenes have no consequence (positive or negative) on the rest of the movie.

Indeed, frustration and pointlessness sum up Fury. It is a film that has a lot going for it due to a good script; solid acting from all the cast; the a muddy set which enables one to feel what it must have been like (and what it probably still be like) to be inside a tank during war; and the graphic way that warfare is depicted is gruesome and sickening. However, ultimately, the above-mentioned positives of Fury are not enough to satisfy viewers, considering that WWII has been portrayed in films so many times over the last two decades alone. Thus, Fury has the sterile and samey feel of so many other WWII movies which not even the dominant display of Brad Pitt (and his abs) can overcome.

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Review – Unknown (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

After viewing the trailer for Unknown, one gets the impression that they’ve seen this type of action film before. One knows the movie won’t be great, but will probably be worth the watch. On this premise, Unknown does not let the audience down.

The car crash that leaves Dr. Martin Harris, played by Liam Neeson, in a coma for four days.

The film revolves around Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson – Schindler’s List, Star Wars I, The Dark Knight Rises), a researcher/lecturer who is in Berlin for a conference, with his wife, Liz (January Jones – Madmen, American Pie: The Wedding, Anger Management). Martin realises, once he’s at the hotel he’s due to stay at, that he has left a suitcase at the airport. On his way back to the airport, an accident occurs. A fridge-freezer falls out of the van in front of the cab. The cab driver, Gina (Diane Kruger – Troy, National Treasure I & II, Inglorious Basterds), swerves out of the way; but loses control of the vehicle. The car smashes into a boundary on a bridge and crashes into the lake.

When Martin wakes up, he’s in hospital after spending four days in a coma. No-one has come to look for him, including his wife. Martin releases himself early from hospital so as to find Liz. However, when he finds her, she maintains that she’s never seen him; plus she is with another man who also claims to be Dr. Martin Harris (Aiden Quinn – Wild Child, Legends of the Fall, Frankenstein). Without ID ‘the real’ Dr. Martin Harris has no way of proving his identity. To compound matters for the ‘real Martin’, he soon discovers that people are after him and he has no clue why.

The plot for Unknown is entertaining and fast paced, despite having many loose-ends. It also has car chases so far-fetched that those in The Fast And The Furious series may not look so ridiculous anymore. The twist is not unpredictable either, but this does not ruin the film.

The ‘real Dr. Martin Harris’ being taken away by security after his wife, Liz, claims that she doesn’t recognise him.

The quality of the acting is about as good as the storyline. Liam Neeson plays decently enough as usual; although this is far from his most challenging role. As January Jones and Aiden Quinn don’t appear much on screen, it’s hardly fair to judge them. The same can be said for Bruno Gantz (who plays Adolf Hitler in Downfall; The Reader) and Frank Llangela (Superman Returns, Frost/Nixon, Wall Street 2).

The only other actor with a notable role in Unknown is Diane Kruger. Despite looking pretty (and skinny) throughout the movie, her Bosnian accent is hardly plausible. It is interesting that the director, Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, House of Wax, Goal II: Living The Dream), chose to play her as a Bosnian when filming in her native country. Then again, one does suppose that actors are paid to act. If that is the case then Kruger’s performance is not much better than her Bosnian accent. It is also hard to imagine one behaving in the way Gina does; especially once she grasps the reality of Martin’s situation.

All in all, Unknown is a distinctly average movie that is fun and entertaining. It is a light film devoid of complexity and quality; yet, filled with action and a solid performance from Liam Neeson.

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