Despite All the Rage — Fury Review

Despite All the Rage — Fury Review
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Fury came out when I was ready to let go of war movies — at least for a while.

Thanks to a friend, however, I didn’t miss Fury, David Ayer’s new war flick starring Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, and Jon Bernthal.

The premise seemed entertaining enough — it seemed like a sort of Band of Brothers meets A-Team except with a tank instead of a black van. My buddy, he of foreign and artsier tastes, tempted me into seeing this one by describing it as a possible Saving Private Ryan except with the brutality and violence spread evenly throughout the movie.

Not that violence is a good thing, but Saving Private Ryan felt like two great movies stitched together or rather like a coin on its side that gives us one view, that of the terrors of war, before flipping over and showing us the other, the psychological damage and unbelievable bravery that scales that wall.

But in the end, Fury was no Ryan — and if I had looked up Ayer’s previous movies before walking into the theater, I would have known better. Why? Because Ayer is no moralist or uplifter, and the only happy ending I’d get is knowing World War II ended with the Allies claiming victory.


While Fury may have cinematic cues in part due to Steven Spielberg’s epic war movie, it’s a much more stark look at war that doesn’t attempt to glorify or try to make peace with it.

Don Collier (Brad Pitt), known by his field tag Wardaddy, leads a crew of veteran soldiers operating a tank during the last days of the war as Allied troops storm Germany. While Hitler’s forces recruit women and children as a desperate measure, Wardaddy and his men move from point to point, though we’re told from the onset that American tanks were inferior to their German counterparts.

After one of Wardaddy’s gunners is killed in battle, Normal Ellison (Logan Lerman) takes his place, but he’s about as green as can be. It’s only a matter of time before he witnesses the horrors of battle — “What men can do to each other.”

This movie will break you in so many ways, whether you’re a warhawk or pacifist. Fury looks like a war movie, sounds like a war movie, and fights like one too — but it’s really a parable of life aptly titled.

“Best job I ever had,” the soldiers say before heading into a suicidal mission — and it sort of sounds like the pep talk I give myself every day before work. Watch as Ellison’s change from dainty-fingered typist to World War II veteran comes with a giant hitch — each experience peels away his innocence, leaving scars like sin. We see how each of Wardaddy’s men, from the Bible quoting Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LeBeouf) to the grime-toothed Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis, have each lost a bit of themselves, jettisoning their sensibilities as they just follow orders. They’re left with different shades of anger boiling quietly but intensely under the surface — an emotion that fills the whole movie with unbearable tension.

“It isn’t about right or wrong,” Wardaddy tells Ellison after he forces him to gun down a surrendering German. War, like life, beats men down until they become monsters fighting for survival. And when beauty presents itself — it’s but for a fleeting moment until it’s smeared by human depravity which ends up begetting even more depravity.

The ending may follow a similar route as other war films as our men go up against insurmountable odds, but it’s the last line that hits you square in the chest. It’s then we realize our heroes are the most damaged of all.


Fury (2014)
IMDB
Directed by: David Ayer
Screenplay by: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal, Jim Parrack, Brad Henke, Kevin Vance, Xavier Samuel, Jason Isaacs, Anamaria Marinca, Alicia von Rittberg, and Scott Eastwood

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Greatest Avenger — Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

The Greatest Avenger — Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review
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Captain America’s first movie had him playing up the role of public servant, popular/populist hero boosting America’s morale during a major World War.

Unfortunately, the movie played itself, churning out montages, a half-baked second half, and an anti-climactic battle with archvillain Red Skull that, altogether, ultimately served the purpose of delivering the Captain to the modern age just in time for the Avengers movie.

The good ol’ Captain deserved more — so much more — and it’s finally here.

The sequel, Winter Soldier, leaves no room for doubting Captain America’s inclusion alongside superheroes Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk in the star-studded and powerful Avengers. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have elevated Steve Rogers’ status far above just being an embodiment of ideals or a symbolic figurehead.

In this, the greatest of Marvel movies, Captain America shines thanks to a relevant plot, intelligent scripting, and adept direction that doesn’t settle for your standard summer blockbuster.

Coming to terms with the modern world, Captain America still holds fast to the ideals and beliefs of yesteryear. As a member of the Greatest Generation, Rogers (Chris Evans) is man enough to admit mistakes were made, but the quest was for freedom — not fear — which becomes an issue when he sees to what lengths America will go to protect itself.

An attempt on S.H.I.E.L.D. honcho Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) life upends everything and causes Rogers, the Black Widow Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and newcomer Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to join forces to take on a familiar enemy embedded deep within Fury’s organization.

The fight becomes especially personal for Rogers when he goes toe to toe with another super soldier — a metal-armed assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Fighting for country without knowing who to trust proves difficult, and there’s a lot of twists and turns as secret identities are revealed, affiliations are chosen, and new villains are introduced. Through it all, the plot stays the course with brilliant action choreography, tense sequences that increase the drama, and great character development that brings some of Rogers’ history full-circle.

Captain America: Winter Soldier is a comic book movie done right, and what the film team has done is build up Captain America’s battle prowess by letting him loose. The parkour sequences with shield tossing don’t feel routine, and the plethora of melee combat scenes never feel stale. A movie like this should be taught to all aspiring filmmakers hoping to take comics from page to silver screen — it builds on the essence of popular characters, brings them into a world worth inhabiting, and unleashes them for full effect without dumbing it down.

It’s a movie that makes you want to believe in superheroes, and then you realize it’s not the shield or the serum that counts. It’s the length we’ll go to protect our friends.

That’s the kind of thing you’d find in a comic, and this is the kind of movie that will bring geeks and movie-goers together in harmony.


Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
IMDB
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Maximiliano Hernandez, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Stan Lee, Callan Mulvey, and Jenny Agutter

Rating: 5 out of 5.