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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Fury movie review (London Film Festival)

by MaryAnn Johanson

Fury green light

A particularly ugly iteration of “war is hell”… and I mean that as a compliment. This is a film that is deeply unpleasant and near genius.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m a big fan of David Ayer

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Basically, war turns even the most decent of men into monsters. It’s not a theme that hasn’t been explored before, but David Ayer’s Fury is a particularly ugly iteration of it… and I mean that as a compliment. Skies are gray, the ground is muddy — this might be the muddiest movie I’ve ever seen — and everywhere is blood, pain, and desperation. There’s not much of a story, just an episodic series of nasty, brutal engagements for the crew of a U.S. Army tank nicknamed Fury and commanded by Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt: The Counsellor), as they push deeper into Germany in April 1945. They guess that the war must be over soon — the Germans have resorted to putting too-big uniforms on scared kids, and guns into their hands — but it’s only the fact that we watching know that it will be over soon, and that the Nazis will lose, that allows some respite from atmosphere of relentless hopelessness Ayer (Sabotage) immerses us in.

For we see how quickly the new guy, Norm (Logan Lerman: Noah) — just transferred from the typing pool and “not trained to machine-gun dead bodies” (as he is ordered to do at one point) — becomes as hard and as cold as his colleagues, which also include born-again “Bible” (Shia LaBeouf: Nymphomaniac), repulsive “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal: The Wolf of Wall Street), and “Gordo” (Michael Peña: American Hustle), probably the closest to normal of all of them before Norm arrived. There are images here that are among some of the most terrible I’ve ever seen onscreen; one will be seared in my brain forever, I suspect. And then there is the extraordinary scene that challenges our notion of what constitutes a “good guy” both onscreen and in real life, in which Collier is shown to be so far gone ethically and morally that he either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that he is being utterly menacing toward two German civilian women (Alicia von Rittberg [Barbara] and Anamaria Marinca [Europa Report]), and may in fact believe himself to be behaving in a chivalrous way toward them.

The sneaking complexity in what appears to be stark, unsentimental spareness — I particularly like Collier’s query of Bible, “Do you think Jesus loves Hitler?” — lingers. It’s deeply unpleasant, far more upsetting than I was expecting (I sobbed through quite a bit of the film), and near genius.

viewed during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Fury (2014)
US/Canada release date: Oct 17 2014 | UK release date: Oct 22 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated NIHTG (Nazis: I hate these guys)
MPAA: rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
BBFC: rated 15 (strong bloody violence, gore, strong language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • LaSargenta

    Good to know. I had seen a trailer for this a while back and it looked interesting…like it could wipe the memory of Pitt in Inglorious Basterds out of the back recesses of my brain.

  • Well, I liked *Basterds* a lot. But this is a very different kind of film.

  • LaSargenta

    I know, and I respect that. I saw it about a year or two after it came out and I went and posted a reply about my plot-based issues with the film (and the fact that Pitt’s accent shifted a lot…and that the camera lingered noticeably longer over the deaths of the two female characters than anyone else’s death…). Eventually, the comment disappeared. So have a few others of mine. No big deal, but Disqus isn’t the best caretaker of our words (not that they are so valuable). I didn’t like it particularly. Over the years, I’ve realized I have a lot of trouble with several aspects of Tarantino films I have seen. I really admired Reservoir Dogs, but haven’t been anywhere as enthusiastic since then.

  • Sorry about Disqus. I wish there was another viable option.

  • LaSargenta

    No worries. If something I wrote was actually important enough to me, I generally remember my argument and, when it’s apt, bring up those points again. If we were sitting around a table with food and rink, we wouldn’t have a record of the discussion at all!

    PS: It also saves me from having to remember how worked up about something I got. Lol.

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    Hmm. The historical/technical spects of the film were quite good. I was a little curious that the unit had mixed model M4 Shermans (I imagine it is next to impossible to get 4 or 5 working M4A3E8 “Easy 8” Shermans anywhere in the world, so I guess they had to throw several different Sherman models together). The tanks carried unhitching beams on the sides as they would have in real life. ‘Wardaddy’ had a captured German STG-44 German assault rifle which was a nice touch. American attitudes towards Waffen SS were accurate.

    Nice to see an actual working real Tiger tank (#131 was used in the film and it saw combat in Tunisa before it was knocked out by a British Churchill tank and captured and repaired. It was restored to running condition a couple years ago)

    The profanity was excessive even for US Army standards (and that takes some real effort!). Then again, I was in army aviation and not a treadhead…but the language was over the top.

    The combat scenes were very well executed and generally believable even if they were familiar to anybody who has seen “Saving Private Ryan” or the Bogart classic “Sahara”. We have all seen the “tiny unit must hold this position at all costs!” bit before, but it was fairly well done.


    The scene in the apartment with the two German women just about ruined the movie for me. It was wrong headed in every way possible, and I regretted taking my 14 year old kid because of it. It really bordered on rape (can you tell me it isn’t coercive when the guys in your house have submachine guns??!) and it did nothing to clarify any of the characters involved. Perhaps that is what the director intended. Heck, everything else in the movie is muddy so make the character motivations muddy and indiscernable as well. You can argue that real life is like that…but that doesn’t always work so well in a film.

    Anyways…it did not work for me. It contributed nothing to the movie and detracted a great deal. If you want to deal with sexual mores in war, then build a movie around that theme. Throwing it into the 2nd act of a movie where it doesn’t tie into anything else that happened before or after made no sense…but made me dislike the characters and care a great deal less about what happens to them down the line.
    In other scenes, we see ‘Wardaddy’ summarily executing a helpless and pleading German soldier to make make an impression on his reluctant bow gunner as well as gunning down a Waffen SS officer. Is ‘Wardaddy’ heroic or a psychopath? Both? The one scene where he guns down a villainous SS officer in the town square (who had hanged German children who did not want to fight) sufficed to estabish moral complexity and willingness to be brutal, but we got sooo much more in brutality. Again, I ended up not really caring about what happened to him by the end. If nihilism is the point…IE staring into the abyss of war does really bad things to you…then the 3rd act takes it all apart and goes back into the heroic last stand fight. It felt like three different movies were all together in one script and nobody knew what kind of war movie they were making: 1. Grim Dark war flick (for all you warhammer 40K fans out there…), 2. US soldiers are the real war criminals war flick (see Vietnam set “Casualties of War” with Sean Penn) or 3. Heroic Last Stand war flick (too many others to count)
    I have no idea which one it was…if any.

  • AnneMarie Dickey
  • I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m skipping over your spoilers, but your mention of your child made me pause. How old is he/she? Do you regularly take them to rated R war movies? I ask this in all seriousness, because my son is almost 14 and it wouldn’t even occur to me to take him to this with me.

  • David

    I’m going to see this one. I’ve been waiting for a great tank film and was starting to despair of ever seeing one.

  • It really bordered on rape (can you tell me it isn’t coercive when the guys in your house have submachine guns??!)

    It doesn’t border on rape. It *is* rape.

    and it did nothing to clarify any of the characters involved.

    Of course it does. As I explained in my review.

    Is ‘Wardaddy’ heroic or a psychopath? Both?

    I think the point of the film is that these are often one and the same when it comes to war.

  • Guest

    I found a counter-point to anti-war movies. It is a novel by the Russian author Konstantin Simonov. He describes the battle of Stalingrad from the Russian perspective -as cruel as it may be- as something that has to be done. ( „Soldatami ne rozdajutsja” – which I would translade as “One is not born a soldier” )
    And if I’m allowed some sophistry: The Nazis were cruel. They waged war because of hatred. The US soldiers were in the war for freedom. Freedom is a better reason than hatred, right?

  • Beowulf

    Going to see this later today. I have high hopes (heck, the fact that I’m laying down $7 for an old-folks ticket confirms that) for this movie. As someone else noted, a good tank movie is rare. I might have to just bust out Bogie’s SAHARA again.

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    My son is 14 and I have taken him to or let him watch a *few* R rated sci fi or similar movies (Prometheus, Alien etc). I do feel this one really was inappropriate and I regret letting him see it.

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    “It doesn’t border on rape. It *is* rape.”
    Arguably yes…but the tonal quality of the scene tries to underplay that IMHO and that is one of my complaints. I do not know if that was a deliberate choice of the director (ambiguity) or if he really didn’t realize how objectionable the scene really became.

  • I think the scene makes enough of a point of the women’s terror that it’s not underplayed. (I also like that what happens in the bedroom is left ambiguous. It’s possible, though perhaps not likely, that no *actual* rape occurred, though it was certainly on the agenda. And this does not negate that the women are absolutely terrorized.) But I would be curious to hear Ayer’s explanation of what he was aiming for and what he thinks is going on in that scene.

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    Sahara is one of the real gems of WW II movies, and Bogie is at his best in this one. Outstanding attention to detail (getting out and greasing the bogie wheel suspension of the M3 while stopped. Things that only military and ex military would notice) and fine acting. Sahara and Casablanca remain two of my all time favorite movies (and in the Casablanca vs Citizen Kane best movie debate…Casablanca wins for me every time. Not even close.)

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    I agree. I would like to hear from him. You and I noticed the fear the women were broadcasting…so why the sudden lurch into singing along with the piano? I don’t get it. I sure as hell would not be making myself even more visible in her position. When she grabs Norman and takes him to the bedroom, I would bet many male audience members WOULD NOT read that as coercion, whereas I saw it as that she knew the deal…that she was not getting out of sex of some sort and she decided to retain what little dignity she could salvage and initiate something with the best prospect she had. I saw her innate decency in that she was truly concerned for Norman as he is being bullied out the door to go to the tank.
    Again, some clarity from the director woulf be welcome here. Did he see this as rape?

  • Re the singing: Placating her attacker? Relief that overt violence seemed to be off the table?

    If men don’t see this scene as rape, we need to make sure they know that that’s what it is.

  • Beowulf

    I know the Russians really suffered and their fierce resistance against the Nazis until invaded France saved Great Britain and maybe the world, but the Russian Army was second only to the Germans when it came to rape. Rape, as with looting, was a given. I think the scene has the Americans taking the same advantage, but not being as brutal about it. No, it’s not “nice” rape vs. “nasty” rape, but, given the circumstances, it’s the difference between a bullet in the head and being burned alive.

  • Beowulf

    What’s the scene you can’t unsee?

    Very good, very brutal, movie. The final battle is ridiculous, but then (Where Eagles Dare), the German soldiers can’t shoot straight anyway. Shia the Beef is very good in this and I normally can’t stand him. When Brad takes his shirt off–boy, has he let himself go! DID a white horse go by the tank at the end?

  • Beowulf

    Casablanca is, perhaps, the more enjoyable movie; CK is still the best.

  • Beowulf

    You know a lot about tanks….be still, my heart!

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    I taught threat identification in the US Army in addition to my normal job as a helicopter crewchief. There is nothing more sure to put your audience to sleep then a one hour slide show (this was before power point) on Warsaw Pact tanks and how to differentiate roadwheels, glacis plates and turret shapes from thse of NATO tanks. *sigh*

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    Meh. CK had technical innovation in deep focus camera shots and some sophisticated directoral and editing techniques…but Ye Gods what a waste of time! I tried to sit through it three times before I finally managed to watch it all in one go in a film techniques class I took for fun while completing a geology degree. Casablanca is a film to be savored like an 18 year old single malt scotch. CK is

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    For me, seeing the previous bow gunners face laying on the console will be in my nightmares for weeks to come.

  • bronxbee

    ever read: All Quiet on the Western Front? or Not So Quiet? both these books depicted the absolute horrors of WWI — one was German, one was English. All Quiet actually won a peace prize. sadly, neither managed to stop a second war from happening — or even influence the population to try and avert them.

  • bronxbee

    i agree with you — Casablanca had characters and problems that people could identify with, even if not in the same situation. CK had great technical aspects but not a single warm or likeable or even understandable character. always felt that way, even in a film class that kept telling me that CK was the best movie ever made. i still feel “eh.” like Hemingway — had a verbal knock down dragged out battle with a college professor (my class teacher, actually) over that guy.

  • Beowulf

    Tsk…you guys! The Epstein brothers (on Penn State’s 1929 NCAA championship boxing team) made a routine studio picture that used all the contract players, had three writers, and was ignored by WB until it won Best Picture. I used to see it and CK two/three times a year with my film students, and the two films are both great. Julius J. Epstein considered “white house” a bucket of sentimental corn. In much the same way, Forbidden Planet is right up there as the most fun you can have watching a movie with your pants on, while the brilliant 2001:ASO is a “head” picture in every way.
    “I’m shocked to find film discussion going on in here, shocked.”

  • Beowulf

    Gah-h-h, I must have blinked at that moment!

  • That’s one.


    The primary one: the soldier on fire screaming, until he shoots himself in the head.

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    Yep. That was bad.
    I think that was the kid Lieutenant who looked like he wasn’t even old enough to shave yet. That was horrific.
    Considering I am writing a thesis (like I was literally just working on my paper until about 5 minutes ago) on Robespierre and linkage between the Terror and virtue in the French Revolution…I need some lighter fare for entertainment. Something that doesn’t involve mass murder, genocide, rape, guillotines or some luckless guy on fire bailing out of a “brewed up” tank. (which is why we don’t use gasoline in armoured vehicles anymore…!)

  • Tonio Kruger

    Oh, those movies were influential, all right. Just not with the type of people who led the Axis Powers.

    And some historians have argued that by encouraging America, Britain and other Allied powers to either disarm or cut back on their military budgets, those movies ultimately did more harm than good by ensuring that the Allies had to start their war machines from close to scratch when WW II began while the Axis — which generally ignored such movies and built their own war machines in secret — had a huge advantage.

    True, the Allies won in the long run but it was still a close call for many years.

  • bronxbee

    “to each his own said the girl who kissed a cow.” (something my mom used to say) we’ll have to agree to disagree. it is, however, amazing to me that some fans of the type of cold movies like CK always think that “sentimental” or “emotional” is a way to put down a movie. i feel just the opposite. what the hell do i want to see a movie that is only technically brilliant and emotionally dead for?

  • Beowulf

    Oh…. THAT one.

  • Unknown

    Brad Pitt using the MP44/StG44 in the movie FURY

  • LaSargenta

    The sniper needing 3 shots (and noe was a head shot) *was* ridiculous.

    But, what do you mean “let himself go”? He looked pretty fine…for a 40-something sergeant who has scars all over his back.

  • LaSargenta

    But, that’s what he had to do…

  • LaSargenta

    Great movie. Saw it this morning. Barely on any screens now. Very well done.

  • That’s what makes it so horrifying: it was the best option.

  • Nathan C.

    This seems like the point that this game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF5th1295wI&index=61&list=WL is trying to get across. What “glory” is to be had for the civilians who are raped and beaten no matter which side marches through town.

  • Nathan C.


    At what cost though? No I’m not selling the game, I hate side-scrollers, I just like the trailer.

  • I just deleted two comments from the same commenter that included the trailer for a videogame. The connection to the film and the discussion was tenuous at best, and the comments — and in particular the repetition of the trailer — smacked of spam.

    Don’t be mistaken for a spammer, folks.

  • Breaking chains

    So this movie with regard to women seemed almost indifferent to the horror of rape and the indecency of people who are ok with violating another human being for beastial purposes. As is true in real life I guess. It would seem to me it should be a prerequisite for hollywood to not send a mixed signal here or perhaps to glorify this behavior. I myself served in the USMC and had anyone ( even the commanding officer ) committed such atrocities in my presence I would have summary executed them as is a nco duty in wartime. Rape is a war crime as is killing surrendered enemy combatants or soldiers. They had courts after the war for these people to sort it out. It turns my stomach to see this film. For anyone who reads this here is a little piece of buried history. One of my aunts was a german girl around 12 yrs of age when the Americans rolled into town. They tied her, her mother and her grandmother up in a barn for three days while an entire battalion raped them. She saw my Father when he had graduated from the navy and was wearing his whites ( he didn’t know this little tale ) up until then she always had been affectionate to him. She spat on him and never spoke with him again.

  • Danielm80

    Rape by military officers has been a problem for a very long time, and it’s still an enormous problem today. See, for example, this article:


  • In what way do you think the film glorifies rape?

  • Breaking chains

    The same way it glorifies murder. There is no need to kill prisoners of war. The killing indoctrination scene is a good example – and then justified by brad pit having an emotional moment after the event. This movie is being screened by people of all walks of life! The last natural disaster I lived thru ( many now ) saw many women raped and murdered and the less well off take the lapse of government control to kill those who do have something….. War is sanctioned natural disaster a human typhoon a tragedy. In war we are not to become beasts and we do not have to. War is not good and that’s why I try to stay out of them ( with some still getting a hold of me anyway ). I’d say if they were trying to make war look bad they only somewhat succeeded. Indeed people have a percentage of scum everywhere who love death misery and the rest – there is no need to demean ones self for this element. Where is the realization that the idea of right and wrong has lost its meaning – as in the case of Russian roulette? If you must kill to live as is true in combat fine ( a tragic mismanagement has occurred with social decay and leadership ) the need to become a monkey feasting on the brains of rival monkey babies is not. in a nutshell this film glorifies rape and murder by serving as a desensitizing tool causing these atrocities to be accepted as part of the horror of war – in Nuremberg we had a different idea – and I guess the Geneva conventions were just a fancy party – and nothing but.

  • But the film does not glorify murder, either. That indoctrination scene, as you call it, is horrifying, not glorious.

  • Breaking chains

    I hope most see it that way! There’s a bit of war glamour here too and from my view point ( knowing the situation in reality ) it seemed glorified. For me it could have been made much more negative about this phycopath and his lack of regard for laws common decency and marallity. But it wasn’t – so what it’s like Jason or Freddy Kruger? Maybe my point is lost here but I’d think you can infer my meaning.

  • ThatZAguy

    Undoubtedly, about 2/3 of the way through the film when the American tanks are rolling through a town and there’s a (presumably) German body on the road, having been ground down to the point where it was indistinguishable as a human and only was only being held together by the mud-pasted uniform. In war, not even the dead are spared their dignity.

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