Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 7:17 pm | Fair 66º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘Fury’

3 Stars — Challenging

Telling a new story about World War II doesn’t come without some risk of redundancy. Fury is a band-of-brothers glimpse of survival during the last days of Hitler’s reign when he threw every man, woman, child and soldier into harm’s way to satisfy his narcissistic world view. Here we follow a group of men confined to a tank in the final throes of the counterattack on German soil in April 1945, living through their own hell on earth.

The first impression of this slice of history is that the end of the war was among the bloodiest in its seven years of destruction. Tens of thousands of people — soldiers and civilians — died in the last 90 days. Think of facing the loss of life equal to the collapse of the World Trade Center every other day for months on end. Not only were the first responders dying by the thousands, but so were innocent mothers, wives and children who had nothing to do with starting this insanity. In this story, many die to protect a crossroad stop in the country.

Now think about what it would be like to have to fight under these circumstances. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is a seasoned sergeant who has to maintain the morale and focus of a group of guys who come from varied backgrounds with very different views on the value of life. Add to this the physical reality in which they have to survive — five men living in a space the size of a Volkswagen for days and weeks at a time without bathing!

This is both a bonding experience as well as an exercise in intense tolerance. The fear of eminent death keeps them from killing one another because they realize everyone survives only if they have each other’s back.

Much of this story is told through the eyes of Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a young and frightened new recruit who is thrown into the middle of this battle-weary team at the 11th hour. With so little manpower left, Norman was yanked from his typist job and sent to the front as an assistant tank driver. Having no training or experience in combat, he is almost immobilized with fear, which puts the rest of his team at risk of death.

“Wardaddy” Collier takes him under his wing like an older brother to offer him confidence, but also to instill within him the intestinal fortitude necessary to survive. This includes having to expose him to the unimaginable horror of being forced to shoot a captured German soldier in the back while the German pleads for his life while holding pictures of his wife and children.

Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf) is the moral center of the tank crew. “Bible” recites scripture to maintain any sense of purpose in the midst of this chaos. One of the most poignant moments in the film is when the entire team is faced with almost certain death. He leads his teammates in repeating the lines from Isaiah 6:8: “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

“Wardaddy” may be the hardened sergeant holding this ragtag group together, but he also reveals a core of humanity and faith that shows a depth of compassion that protects his charges no matter what it takes. Ultimately, as the team’s leader, he has to face the question of whether he is willing to lay down his own life for the sake of others. What plays out on the screen is the brutal answer to the question seen through the eyes of each of the members of the team.

The building of character is always tested under fire. Fury causes us to remember what others had to sacrifice when faced with the ultimate question of confronting such an unspeakable evil. While most of the world today has not had to experience these horrors, it is a sobering fact that so many in places like Syria and Iraq still do. We can never ignore or diminish the fact that we are all in this world together, and when others suffer in the presence of such evil, we are all at risk.

Discussion

» The atrocity of war brings out both the best and worst within a person. How do you see both in each of this tank crew?

» The darkest moments come when evil is cornered and seems to choose death in order to cause even more destruction. Why do you think this is true or, if you disagree, why do you think this is not true?

» So often when seen from a more objective view, the decision of field commanders to hold a crossroads seems foolish. Why do you think perspective changes once we are out of the situation?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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