by Mark Woodhouse
Rated MA15+. Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman. Directed by David Ayer.
Fury is a film that will divide opinion.
Fury is the name of a tank. Its captain is Sgt. ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt), and its crew is battle-hardened and battle-scarred. They’ve fought their way across Africa, through France and Belgium, and are joining the final push of WW2 towards Berlin. They are joined by terrified rookie, Norman Ellison (Lerman). In desperation, Hitler has declared Total War, compelling every man, woman and child to defend Germany. It’s a strained and fearful time.
Fury is very well filmed and put together. It’s as close as I’ve ever felt to being in war. It’s dirty, cold, muddy, uncomfortable, and claustrophobic in the tank. There’s not much colour, not much joy, not much hope. There’s lots of blood and bone, and limbs are detached from bodies and bodies are run over by tanks. It’s violent and graphic and brutal, and hails of tracer bullets slam into tanks and into columns of people, and shells bounce off tanks and fizz into the distance, and it’s frightening and scary and horrifying. It feels like you’re caught up in the battle, like the German soldiers are firing at you and you better duck behind the seat in front of you if you want to make it out alive.
It feels like war. But I didn’t enjoy that feeling! In fact, I felt many strong emotions watching Fury, but none of them were good ones. It’s tricky to write a review about a film like this, because on the one hand, the film very successfully and skillfully elicited a deep emotional response from me as a viewer. But on the other hand, I didn’t enjoy that emotional response – it was a deeply unsettling and distinctly unenjoyable experience.
“Wait until you see what a man will do to another man!”
The characters are all immersed in this awful world, and it ruins them as people. They are so scarred and destroyed by war that their values are warped. They feel nothing but hatred for the German soldiers, and have lost sight of right and wrong. Women are treated awfully, as prizes of war and not as people (and I was concerned that the film seemed to portray this a lot less negatively than it should have). The characterisation is quite complex and varied, which held my interest, but it was a morbid interest in how war has affected this person, and how war has affected that person, and how war is making a man freeze and cry and then become overwhelmed by hatred for the people in his gun sights.
Where the film fails is its portrayal of the American soldiers as heroes. This is a patriotic American WW2 film… if you know what I mean. It’s a far more complex and dark heroism than in many other films, but to me they don’t come away as heroes at all. They’re broken men.
What’s really interesting in this film is the prevalence of Christianity. One member of the crew, Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (LeBeouf), preaches unashamedly to his tank-mates. It’s an interesting version of Christianity, though. He refuses to sleep with women, but will happily shoot a woman holding a gun. He is certain the war is just, right, and the will of God. His tank-mates tease him: ‘Do you think Jesus loves Hitler?’
‘Bible’ Swan quotes Isaiah 6:8: ‘And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”’ This, he thinks, is his commission from God to fight this holy war. But Isaiah 6 recounts the commissioning of Isaiah, and ‘Bible’ Swan isn’t Isaiah. And Isaiah is commissioned not to fight a war, but to warn God’s people that war is coming if they don’t start living God’s way! Isaiah proclaims a saviour who will wash away the sins of the people (Isaiah 1:18-19), not a tank gunner who will mow down the German army on the way to Berlin.
The book of Isaiah doesn’t tell us to go to war. It tells us what God is like! It tells us that God is bigger than us, that God is holy, that God loves his people who aren’t holy and constantly reject him. It teaches us that God will save and redeem his people, but not through war. Isaiah 53:5 –
‘But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.’
God’s people are healed by the wounds of Jesus, not the wounds of soldiers. The book of Isaiah isn’t telling us to go to war, but to turn to Jesus, who loves us to the point of dying for us, and who is grieved by violence and bloodshed (Isaiah 5:7).
I can’t recommend seeing this film, as well made as it is. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it on a cinematic level; perhaps you’ll be shocked by the violence and glorification of war. But if you do see it, there are heaps of great conversations about the love of God that can flow from it. I’m giving Fury two-and-a-half stars.
Fury is screening now in cinemas in the US and Australia, and will release in the UK tomorrow.