Tag Archives: Brad Pitt

Fury (2014) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh

FURY

Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Brad Pitt,  Shia LaBeouf,  Logan Lerman

David Ayers Fury is actually one of the better war films involving tank warfare, but if you’re something of an anal World War II aficionado then it’s probably not the film for you regardless. Set in April 1945, at the tail end of said war, it follows the heroics of a Sherman tank crew as they make their way into Germany to bring about an end to the conflict at last. The German soldiers, by this point deeply entrenched, well up for a prolonged fight and steadfastly hanging onto their fanaticism, even despite their growing misfortunes, have other ideas however.

Nope, there’s no renewed focus on the Battle of the Bulge in the densely forested Ardennes or any real historical battles for that matter. The former is already long gone when Fury hits our screen. The Germans are already surrendering in their droves and in the absence of an actual real life depiction is the fictitious exploits of Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier. Don is a battle hardened tank commander who has, against all the odds, managed to lead his crew from North Africa to Germany. That’s no mean feat in a conflict that was notoriously unkind to tanks, so you see he’s not a man to be trifled with. Of course, not everybody in his crew made it through in one piece and it’s at that junction that the film begins.

Ayer introduces the four veteran crew members in a striking opening scene, involving a positively regal looking German officer, riding a dashing white stallion. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a brief time slip into an alternate reality as he surveys the aftermath of a unnamed battle. The reality of the German situation soon returns however when Collier pounces from his seemingly abandoned tank to brutally take the man down. The others, in the process of performing a quick mechanical repair throw insults around, giving an early hint that they’ve been together a while and seen some shit. Having clearly grown close and christened each other with nicknames, they include; Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia LeBeouf); Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Peña) and Grady ‘Coon-ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal).

There’s one man missing, the recently departed ‘Red’. An ironically perverse nickname, because all that remains of his presence within the cramped confines of the tank is a hideously, realistically, recreated piece of scalp (well done FX people) and copious amounts of blood. The others clearly still mourning his loss aren’t in any mood to deal with his nervous, boyish, replacement upon arriving back at their base camp and quickly task him with cleaning the gory mess. And believe me, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) doesn’t want to be there any more than they want him to be there. Plucked from a clerical position, he’s of the sensitive variety and not remotely up for the dangers of front line fighting.

This doesn’t sit at all well with Wardaddy, a man who’s earned his crews respect for being a strangely conflicted, disciplinarian, father figure. After asking the young chap if he’s “done much killing?”, he decides tough love is the best way to, well, toughen him up. How does he do this? By slapping him around a little and forcing a gun into his hand, before firing it in the direction of a German prisoner. The development of Norman was a little stereotypical, corny and crudely executed for me. Ayer laid on the sensitivity of the character a little too thickly, which having him play piano in a young German woman’s house (actually one of my favourite scenes incidentally, purely for the interesting dynamic that plays out between the crew) to further highlight, perfectly summed up.

It’s an action film at heart though, and in its defence, doesn’t really require any complicated, fleshed out personalities or even complex thematics to be any good. It just needs something resembling a plot, eye catching visuals and a decent cast. It has at least two of those. I’m actually still not sure what the story was about, out with Norman’s personal journey and blowing shit up? Visually, it really is quite something though. From the sets, period costume designs, all the way to the tank/s themselves. It certainly feels like World War II and the gore was ratcheted up to stomach churning levels. Heads and limbs are blown off, and bodies are crushed under the tracks of the tank. That showdown between the Tiger and the Sherman’s was certainly enjoyable too and they did a very decent job of filming inside the tight interior of the tank.

It does have a very decent cast too, there can be no complaints there. Brad Pitt is pretty damn good in his role as Wardaddy. Yes, it has shades of Aldo Raine, but he plays the battle hardened role so well and Collier alongside Norman is perhaps the only character I felt any emotional connection with (even then it was minute). Logan Lerman is the standout here however. His character has by far the most the development (even if it isn’t amazingly executed) and depth. He puts in a believable and excellent performance as young man living the horrors of war. Out of the other three main protagonists Shia LeBeouf edges it, well he more than edges to be fair, as Bible. I don’t particularly like the guy off screen, but he’s practically unrecognisable in this role and I can’t fault him. Bernthal and Peña were fine without excelling.

In fairness though, I can’t be too overly critical of any of their performances, because in all honesty, they worked wonders with fairly two dimensional characters that, like I said, besides Don and Norman lacked any depth or personality. And that right there is the main gripe I have with this film. The story is unmemorable and slightly rubbish. It basically follows the crew as they go from one generic skirmish to another with the odd recuperation between. The final stand that pitted the five against a SS platoon was a head scratcher, telegraphed and came across as a weird rip-off of Saving Private Ryan. Unlike that film, I was never truly invested in any of the main characters and so had no emotional investment in their inevitable deaths. Ayer (spoiler alert) killed them off one by one and I genuinely didn’t care, which shouldn’t be the case.

Having said that now, would I recommend this film? Hmm… it’s a tough one. It’s still a decent action flick and as long as you go in with zero expectation of anything more then some enjoyment could still be taken. So depending on who you are, yes and no.

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Allied (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

ALLIED.png

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Steven Knight
Stars: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

Allied is a blatant attempt at recapturing the spirit of the classic Humphrey Bogart style romantic war films that you’d be accustomed to watching on TCM in the middle of the afternoon. The type my grandfather seemed to have on permanently whenever I walked in. A romantic drama that features very little drama and painfully forced romance. I’ve honestly not seen romance done this bad since Attack of the Clones. It’s not for the want of trying, with Pitt and Cotillard performing fairly well, but you just can’t fake chemistry when it isn’t there.

Beginning in 1942 within Nazi occupied Casablanca. The opening shot reveals Canadian paratrooper Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachuting into the sandy dunes of French Morocco’s desert tundra. A car soon appears to whisk him into the city, with the driver telling Max that his ‘wife’ is in the blue dress. Cut to the streets of Casablanca and there’s Camels, lots of Camels. Max, wearing an immaculate suit, walks into the club and after a brief glance around, soon spots Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), the cigarette smoking, resistance infiltrator disguised as his wife. She’s apparently created quite the cover story, rather bizarrely telling her friends that Canadian born Max is a mining engineer and native Parisian. Cue the inevitable awkwardness that follows with a terrible sounding French accent. Thankfully our main protagonist quickly sees sense and makes a sharp exit. Truth be told, it’s a rather odd beginning to an even odder film. American born Pitt, playing a Canadian soldier working for the British, whilst putting on a false French accent is just too much for my brain to process.

A short car ride and narrow miss for another camel later; our leading pair arrive at their temporary digs for the next ten days. They’re here to assassinate the German ambassador who is hosting a lavish party. In the days leading up to the party, we see the pair go about their daily business as fake husband and wife. The whole shenanigans resembling one of my all-time favourite X-Files episodes: Arcadia. At least Mulder and Scully had bucket loads of on screen chemistry, which is more than can be said for Max and Marianne. It has to be said that the pacing in this opening 45 minutes is choppy at best. There’s a cool cafe scene, that features Max taking out a German officer, walking back to his table for a final sip of his coffee, before strolling away with a degree of nonchalance that would make James Bond proud. Some unnecessary chatter scenes between the leading two that feel like a half hearted attempt at developing the relationship and failing to do so. A short cameo from August Diehl, whose character could have been lifted straight from Inglorious Basterds, such is the glaring similarities between the two. And finally, on the eve of the operation, a completely bizarre sex scene in a car during a particularly vicious looking sand storm, with some rotating camera shots that are still leaving me scratching my head in bemusement just now.

When the party finally arrives, the scene is over so quickly that you’d be forgiven for thinking just why hell they wasted the best part of an hour in setting it up. The choreography was lacklustre and it completely lacked any sort of suspense whatsoever. Both make it out after slaughtering all but one woman, lord knows why they spared her? The film never does explain it. Then completely out of the blue, Max blurts out “Come with me to London and be my wife”. And here was me giving them a bye because their relationship was supposed to be fake. Oops.

The film then jumps forward a couple of weeks with Max in England and a short scene plays out with his commanding officer telling him “Marriages made in the field never work”. On reflection, perhaps he should have listened to him. We then see another jump in time with Marianne giving birth outside, during the middle of an air raid in London. Now, if you’ll excuse my ignorance please. I know health and safety wasn’t up to the lofty standards of today back in the 1940s, but wouldn’t it be much safer delivering a baby inside the hospital? Like, even take them down to the basement if it’s absolutely necessary to move. But I digress. There’s yet another jump into the future. Perhaps unsurprisingly, with Robert Zemeckis directing. The couple are now living a fairly happy existence in wartime London. That is until Max gets notified by his commanding officer Frank Heslop (Jared Harris) to attend a top secret meeting with an overly cheeky intelligence chief (Simon McBurney). He’s rather bluntly told that Marianne is suspected of being a German spy, the real Marianne apparently having been killed and replaced back in 1941, and that they’ll be running a blue dye operation. If the suspicions are proven to be true then Max will have to kill his wife or face certain death himself on charges of high treason. Again, I’m no expert on spies and their punishments after being caught, but that surely can’t be how they dealt with these things just 74 years ago.

Visually, I can’t fault the film. Don Burgess does a more than decent job of recreating the period. There’s a few minor issues, such as regular pleb German soldiers running around with Nazi armbands, which is historically inaccurate. Overall though, the film looks fantastic and the costume designs are immaculate with Mr. Pitt in particular looking dapper throughout. And a quick mention must be made about the opening shot of Max walking across the top of a sand dune, which was absolutely beautiful looking. Musically, the film is nothing outstanding by any means. Alan Silvestri does an ok job. The first 45 minutes had a rather strange action score, that for me, would be more fitting within a modern setting, but in fairness as the film progresses, things improve substantially. With lots of fairly decent violin parts adding some hint of emotion to proceedings.

The final act of the film then follows Max’s frantic attempts over a three day period to find out the truth about his wife. He even goes as far as flying to France for one night, receiving help from the resistance to break into a jail and speak with the only man alive that can verify the appearance of the real Marianne Beuséjour. Expecting a twist at the end, I was disappointed with the predictable nature of the last 15-20 minutes and was left with a sense of emptiness as the credits rolled. I can’t honestly recommend this extremely disappointing film to anyone.