(US - 2014)
Written and directed by David Ayer. Cast: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, Brad William Henke, Xavier Samuel, Scott Eastwood, Kevin Vance, Jim Parrack, Anamaria Marinca, Alicia von Rittberg, Laurence Spellman. (R, 133 mins)
It's been 16 years since the visceral brutality of the opening sequence of Steven Spielberg's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, a horrific depiction of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, forever changed the cinematic depiction of war. Sure, plenty of war films, especially those centered on Vietnam, pulled no punches and went straight for the jugular, but SAVING PRIVATE RYAN was a game-changer, at least as far as depictions of long-ago wars were concerned. Its impact has been felt in practically every war film or TV show that came in its wake, from the graphic detail of the beloved HBO miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS and THE PACIFIC to the infamous femoral artery scene in Ridley Scott's BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001). The fictional FURY, set in April 1945 during the final month of action in the European theater, is a film that wants to be another SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but really only ends up being an exponentially more violent and foul-mouthed take on the kind of WWII saga that would've been made in the days after WWII and into the late 1960s. It has engrossing story, some good performances, and some well-shot battle sequences that abstain from today's standard quick-cut shaky-cam action, but there's a gnawing feeling that you've seen it all before, from the graphic carnage and the way ammunition shreds through flesh to the outsider joining an established unit and going through the requisite hazing and having to prove his manhood, to Brad Pitt's performance being a somewhat toned-down rehash of his work as Lt. Aldo Raine in Quentin Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009). Writer/director David Ayer (END OF WATCH) has Spielberg-sized ambitions, but he can't resist relying on easy genre tropes, cardboard characterizations, and fuckin' macho tough guy fuckin' posturing just like he fuckin' had earlier this fuckin' year in fuckin'SABOTAGE, one of fuckin' 2014's worst fuckin' movies. And please, in the name of all things cinematic, the time has come to declare a moratorium on alpha-male lunkheads in war movies or cop movies or firefighter movies or doctor movies--any kind of real-world movie or TV show with an ensemble of everyday people doing heroic things--feeling the need to emphatically declare "This is what we do!"