World War II. Don Collier, called Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), is the commanding officer of the tank Fury. With him are Bible (Shia LaBeouf), Gordo (Michael Peña) and Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal), and the newest addition, the young, inexperienced Norman (Logan Lerman), who isn’t even interested in being a soldier. Together they are sent on a mission that sends them further and further into enemy territory.
Fury starts off in such a way that it raised my hopes that we might get a thoughtful portrayal of what it means to be in a warzone, only to squash these hopes completely under a barrage of heroism blah blah.
The film starts with Wardaddy who talks the tough talk in front of his soldiers (who are discouraged – to put it mildly – after losing one of their own), but who is visibly shaken by the events himself, who has to draw back and hyperventilate when nobody is watching. It starts with Norman who explicitly says that he doesn’t want to kill anyone and who recognizes that the other side’s soldiers are just kids like him. There would have been potential there to explore masculinities in the army, and what it means to be a soldier.
When Wardaddy literally forces Norman to execute a German soldier, I was still hoping that we might get an exploration of how hegemonic masculinity is established and enforced. Arguably, we see Norman becoming part of that masculinity, but most of the process is only superficially treated. And as soon as that execution has happened, there is no more questioning or subversion of said masculinity. We don’t see Wardaddy struggle anymore. Norman takes to soldiering very well and all that’s left for him is to practice shooting – there are no more questions about the morality of it.
And then the film generally sticks to well-tread paths: Norman not only learns what it means to be a warfaring man, but Wardaddy makes sure that he loses his virginity. In a scene that is highly questionable and uncomfortable, Wardaddy and Norman enter the apartment of a German woman and her cousin [or niece]. Things are tense, as you’d expect when occupying soldiers enter the private rooms of women unasked. Wardaddy asks the older woman to cook something, and then tells the Norman that if he doesn’t take the younger woman to the bedroom, he will. The younger woman practically grabs Norman to drag him to the bedroom, where they sleep with each other. Whether it’s really just young people making the most of their life, as Wardaddy suggests, or a girl who sees that she has the choice between being raped by a tall man twice her age or a boy more her size and age [even if she doesn’t understand English the situation was clear] and therefore makes the choice where she’s less likely to be physically harmed, is left ambiguous. But once they’re done with sex and food, both women are conveniently killed by a bomb, so Norman gets all of the manpain and none of the consequences. Plus, his romanticism is drilled out of him, further making him more of a “man”.
By the showdown Norman has proven himself to be a valuable soldier, he got his very own warname “Machine” and the last lines of the films actually are “You know that you’re a hero, kid?” With that, the film has settled firmly into usual war heroes tropiness and all semblance of critique is gone, having taken my interest with it. The movie’s biggest saving grace is how shippable Wardaddy and Bible are. Unfortunately, I’m certain that that was completely by accident.