FURY REVIEW

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Feel the fury! Well . . . Sort of.

NO! It’s not another Marvel hero origins movie. Although how good would a Nick Fury movie be? Anyway . . .

David Ayer (Training Day/End of Watch) pens a hard hitting visceral war drama with the aid of a stellar cast.

BUT with an overlong running time and a lagging middle act, it falls short of the greats.

It has been a while since we had a war film and within the last two years, we have been rewarded with several. A little resurgence, almost. Not a bad thing at all. The only problem after so many classics (The Bridge on The River Kwai, The Great Escape, The Guns of Navarone to name a few); is the next film that follows merely a regurgitation?

Saving Private Ryan and the equally brilliant Band of Brothers certainly broke that mould and proved otherwise BUT in the process left a tough act to follow. And I find it hard not to draw comparisons. The Monuments Men felt old before it even got a chance. A rehashed Dad’s Army with little on laughs and little on drama. Fury on the other hand . . .

“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent”.

Let’s start with the good. You can normally bank on Brad Pitt. And he delivers another solid performance. If you’re expecting Lieutenant Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds, you may be left feeling a little disappointed. But Pitt certainly brings a charismatic character to life in his expressions and posture alone.

Where Ayer excels is in the little things; the impact the war has had on the soldiers psychologically. Of course, Ayer shows the level of chaos and destruction that has been brought to Germany as the Allies make the final push. An opening sequence in which we have nothing but silence as a German soldier rides a horse over a field of fallen men was both haunting and harrowing.

Ayer makes an interesting commentary on the human condition. The fact that the soldiers no longer see themselves as human. They are simply killing machines, fighting for survival. The meal sequence perfectly demonstrated this. The scene may have dragged nearer the end and lulled what was a suspenseful and tense encounter but the point was still crucial.

Lerman played the part well as fresh meat Norman Ellison, a typist who has been called up to help in the final push. The juxtaposition between him and Collier (Pitt) work brilliantly. His quick lessons of war by Collier hit home.

The meal sequence was a perfect comparative piece as Collier (Pitt) and Ellison (Logan Lerman – Percy Jackson) attempt to have a moment of normalcy in which they sit at a table to have a meal with two German women. The rest of team inevitably crash the party. It was a perfect statement exemplifying that war changes everything and everyone.

That normalcy is weakness but where it was interesting at first, it dragged on far too long. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) was demented but also quite irritating as his character continued to yammer. Where I felt compassion for the man, I soon prayed for a bombshell to get him off the screen. Terrible to say for such a film.

Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) was an unexpected surprise. After all the controversy surrounding his personal life and the rumours going around about his “method acting”; one particular rumour being that he actually pulled out one of his own teeth to get the feel of the character, he gave a good (and quite normal) performance.

The action was brutal, graphic and violent. It made a change to have a tank warfare film (I can’t recall too many tank movies in particular). The set pieces in which the tanks battle against each other were brilliantly executed.

The claustrophobia and pressure of fighting in a tank was captured perfectly. Ayer allowed for some moments of camaraderie between the rag tag team of misfits and showed how in sync they had to be to survive attack after attack.

To be honest, I was happy to see more of that. The only problem is that the more explosions and battle sequences we got in the second half of the film, they seemed to mesh into one continuous sequence and what didn’t help is that some of the characters didn’t really shine as much as you anticipated. You felt empathy because of what they were fighting for but otherwise . . .

Michael Pena (End of Watch) was highly unmemorable merely repeating other character’s lines and stating the obvious, “That’s five against 300”. A shame considering how talented an actor he is. Bernthal’s indecipherable yammering did my nut in and after a while LaBeouf’s preaching prattled on a bit.

The ending was tragically predictable which is a statement in itself as how many outcomes can there be in a war? I will certainly not forget what those men went through but will I remember this film? I mean Saving Private Ryan had an array of characters with such a simple story line but it had me engrossed, routing for them.

Fury caught my attention but I could feel my eyes wavering over that watch again.

The set pieces are good, if a little repetitive. The cast do their best if their characters are not as rounded as you would hope. Ayer delivers a visceral, if overlong, war drama but it didn’t quite hit it off for me.

3/5

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The Monuments Men Review

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Not a monument that will stand the lengths of time in the huge backlog of war classics we’ve had before. It checked all the boxes but failed to deliver anything new or interesting. Hardly a bomb site, but it lacked the right execution for this operation.

George Clooney takes the helm yet again in an ambitious war effort that just fails to hit the mark. The Monuments Men is based on a real operation that was approved by President Roosevelt himself to help retrieve stolen art and relics from the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners. However, as World War Two is coming to a close, Hitler issues an order to destroy all the art, making it a race against the clock. Now, an intriguing premise that suggested a treasure hunt with a dash of Indiana Jones and a hint of Dad’s Army for good measure. Not at all, old sport. What came was a well acted, if meandering drawn out crusade that if not for a couple of twists, would have been dead in the water. It is difficult to criticize when this is based on a true story, but it still can’t be excused as it raised too many questions.

It reeked of the war movies of old. The sort of maritime viewing you get on a Sunday afternoon. A nice melancholic feel but the problem was that it felt dated before it had even begun. It does start off quite easy going and watchable. The cheeky winking and lighthearted pace as Clooney assembles a talented ensemble of retired veterans and soldiers consisting of Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and the underrated Bob Balaban (who has always stood out for me after his turn in The Lady in the Lake with his speech on characters. One for the writers, that). And of course, not forgetting the regular Clooney collaborators, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.

It’s always going to be hard to make a war film after so many classics but looking at this as a sole text, the tone is all over the place. It has the cheeky twinkle that suggests a Dad’s Army and Allo Allo vibe, especially with Damon’s badly spoken French. A reverse twist that had the odd chuckle, with the French begging him to speak English. There is the occasional titter but the material fails to bring a lot of humour and the partnership between Balaban and Murray could have been so much more. We know Murray is funny, so why not let him apply a little bit of his spiel? He seemed restricted. Well, if we’re honest, they all seem restricted. There was potential with Dujardin and Bonneville, especially in an exchange as to why Hitler only bombs places with no art or culture. Bonneville retorts, “Well they bombed London”. Dujardin smiles, “Yes, I know”. A little bit harsh but there could have been a little rivalry or banter exchange between them, but the two get paired up with the wrong actors, to be honest.

That is also the main problem, the gang inevitably have to split up to cover more ground, which is more miss than hit. Damon aimlessly wonders around the beautiful French countryside before he finally meets his contact, Cate Blanchett. Clooney just drives around, barking orders and taking inventory with young recruit Dmitri Leonidas (you may remember him from the fantasy dud of a TV reboot, Sinbad).  Goodman and Dujardin do have the more interesting adventures with snipers and concluding battle scenes as the Germans were being pushed out. Murray and Balaban bring the odd chuckle and are a good pairing but their adventures are a little nothingy. When Damon meets Blanchett, it does pick up and there is some great chemistry between them but it all gets quite corny and hints at a needless and unnecessary romance. 

There are sobering moments that do bring it back home with some unexpected twists that did surprise, without spoiling, and once the group reunite, the film picks up after a drawn out hour. The land mine scene may have been corny, but was funny and suspenseful. There is a harrowing little touch when the group come across more than they bargained for, when they discover barrels of gold wedding rings and teeth. Clooney’s cigarette speech with the head German officer in charge of disposing the art was brilliant. We finally got to see Clooney come back to the fore and act well, after being quite absent. The pace quickens as the gang have to race against the clock to retrieve all the art before the Russians arrive. There is also a nice aside at the end with a fitting tribute. 

However, The Monuments Men felt more like an extension of the Points episode in Band of Brothers and unfortunately that got the point across a lot better and a lot more riveting in a condensed hour. I couldn’t help feel that in a time of death, loss and destruction, who would care about some pieces of art? Understandably, it is true that by removing the history and culture, you are truly removing the people but it seems less important to the lives that were already lost. A watchable, if drawn out, corny and predictable affair that may get lost like the art in the plethora of war classics before it. 2.5/5

Currently ranks #86 out of 142!