Fury

Fury“Let there be WAR!” said Brad Pitt after his wife Angelina Jolie was tapped to direct the upcoming World War II film Unbroken. Pitt stars in his own WWII film, Fury. We won’t know which is the better of the two until Unbroken premiers in December, but Pitt’s film does not disappoint. Your move, Jolie.

In Fury, Pitt plays sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier who commands the five-man tank crew of a commandeered German tank dubbed “Fury.” Wardaddy’s crew includes four other militarily nicknamed men: driver Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña), artillery expert Grady “Coon-ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal), canon operator Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), and newbie Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), later christened “Machine.” The film makes much of these alternative identities as it delves deep into the effects of war. Lerman’s Norman is the “greenhorn” of the group, having been in the army only 8 weeks when he is assigned to Pitt’s crew. Norman’s previous experience as a typist has not prepared him one bit to assume the gunman post in Collier’s squad, and it certainly has not prepared him to clean up the remains of the previous man who occupied it. Now, as the US pushes its way into Germany and Hitler’s forces grow more desperate Wardaddy and company are sent on mission after dangerous mission to secure German cities.  This is the crux of the film’s plot and while it can be viewed as modest or simplistic, it works.

Fury is directed by David Ayer whose most recent film End of Watch was a sensational piece of guttural tragedy; Fury captures that same tone vividly. While thousands of war films exist, a majority of which are World War II films, Fury rejuvenates the genre with powerful scenes of tank warfare that drip with intensity and ring with authenticity. A scene of note involves the crew facing off against a German Tiger tank where every move must be calculated to the most frustratingly critical degree or it’s lights out. What Ayer accomplishes with both his direction and his screenplay is that he strikes an engaging balance between the rigors of war and the humanity of its soldiers.

The sets are truly remarkable and combined with some of the camera work they can be devastatingly heartbreaking in the style of Saving Private Ryan or even Gone with the Wind. Still at times the film can feel a bit uncoordinated and even cliché especially in some of the dialogue, but Fury thrives more on action and mood than it does conversation. This is also a far more bloody and violent film than I expected. Some of the horrific gruesomeness may have been avoidable, but when looking at the film’s overall ambition, much of it is warranted. At the end, Fury is a surprisingly refreshing look at warfare and camaraderie that is well-acted and feels unique. Angelina Jolie has her work cut out for her. B+

Fury is rated R and has a running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the closest thing we’ve seen to a John Hughes movie since Cameron Crowe channeled him to make Almost Famous. That film felt more epic than the traditional Hughes film, in part due to Crowe’s drawing from his experiences with Rolling Stone. Author/Director Stephen Chobsky also draws from experience to create Perks, however his film has the more intimate feel of a Hughes movie (The Breakfast Club), and that makes it great.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is set in or around Pittsburgh, PA in the early 1990s. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is the aforementioned wallflower; a high school freshman with light heart, but a heavy soul since his best friend recently committed suicide. He finds fitting in and making friends a challenge and instead chooses to lose himself in the novels of equally awkward, soul-searching literary protagonists supplied by his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). Charlie’s awakening comes as a result of being accepted by a group of like-minded upper-classmen. It is here that Charlie’s coming of age journey into adolescence finds its stride.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower seems to unfold effortlessly. We learn more about Charlie as he learns more about himself. This surrealist approach to self-discovery allows the viewer to be both surprised by and understanding of Charlie’s decisions and actions. His closest friends are Sam (Emma Watson) and Sam’s step-brother, Patrick (Ezra Miller), and they shape the heart of this film. Sam’s confidence, charm, and beauty complement her romantic and impulsive attitude towards life, which spellbinds and captivates the sullen but passionate Charlie. Ezra Miller as Patrick deserves special notice as he steals every scene he’s in. This character is miles from his ultra-disturbing performance as Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but is even more impressive. Patrick’s story reveals him to be somewhat of a foil to Charlie as both have similar struggles of adolescence and deal with them very differently. The supporting characters all have their moments as well, allowing secondary characters to be purposeful and not artificial. The film’s best line is given to Charlie’s dad, played Dylan McDermott, in an amusing exchange about borrowing money for a date.

The success of Perks also lies in Chobsky’s handling of his own source material’s tone. He never lets us, or Charlie, get too comfortable, hinting that something more sinister is lying beneath the surface, yet he never allows the film’s youthful spirit to suffer. This balance illustrates the volatility of teenage years with that same touch John Hughes had. The film also allows music to play a major part in the characters’ lives, which was a classic Hughes trademark.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is very successful at what it sets out to be. Many recent films of this genre either feel too self-important and preachy or they go the other way and seem shallow. This film strikes out a balance and while not treading new ground, deservedly treads proudly. B+

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑