By Mike Parnell
Some of my favorite movies are war movies. From “Patton” to “MASH,” “The Great Escape” to “Kelly’s Heroes,” war movies made up a huge part of my early life. Being a child of the ‘60s, we would act out what we saw on the big screen and the small television screen as we played army.
“Fury” is not the best war movie I have seen, but it is enlightening. It is a modern war movie, which means it is graphic in its depiction of war. It is not for the faint of heart.
“Fury” is the name of the Sherman tank manned by a five-man crew led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt). On the back side of the war in April 1945, the allies have entered Germany and are pushing toward Berlin. With victory in sight, Collier declares: “It will end soon, but before it does, a lot more people have to die.”
The rest of the crew includes Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf). He is always telling people about the Lord and the need of getting saved.
Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena) is the driver. Gordo seems always to be seeking out alcohol to dull his senses for the next battle.
Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal) is a Georgia cracker, whose job is to load the gun of the tank. He is backwoods and so Southern it is hard to understand what he is saying.
The new man on the crew is Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). He is not supposed to be part of a tank crew, but the previous gunner is killed. Trained as a clerk typist, now he must do a job he is neither trained for nor prepared to do, physically or mentally.
Norman is a good boy thrown into the hell of war. His reluctance to fire his weapon is a liability to the crew. Wardaddy knows this, and he sets up a circumstance to make the soldier realize he is not in Kansas anymore — the rules of war are kill or be killed.
Exacerbating the horrors of war is the fact that the Americans are outgunned. The German Tiger tanks are far superior to those used by the U.S. Army. That limitation means they must be more all the more ruthless. Norman must endure a baptism of fire and innocence lost to become the man Wardaddy needs to be part of his crew.
Near the end of the movie, when the Fury is ordered to a crossroads in the countryside where the crew must stand and not let any German make it past, Norman discovers what it means to be a soldier.
Bible quotes a verse: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I send me.’”
“Send me,” Norman mumbles.
Wardaddy provides the citation, “Book of Isaiah, Chapter 6.”
The exchange sums up the job of the soldier. The soldier is the one who raises his/her hand and goes out for the sake of others. He/she stands watch over us or rushes into battle on our behalf. The soldier is the one sent for our sake.
Speaking theologically, the soldier acts as the Messiah, intervening for those who remain behind and away from the fight.
“Fury” lacks a connection to the larger ideal of war — specifically the Second World War, the last “good” war. We are not told why these men are there other than to help the others survive.
In the end, that is the story of war: People fighting to ensure that others will live on after them.
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images and language throughout
Written and directed by David Ayers
With: Brad Pitt (Don “Wardaddy” Collier), Shia LaBeouf (Boyd “Bible” Swan), Logan Lerman (Norman Ellison), Michael Pena (Trini “Gordo” Gracia), Jon Bernthal (Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis)