So, just home from Fury. Thanks Warspite, I hadn't planned to venture elsewhere for thoughts on it but now I think I will.
I liked it a great deal. I think through-out the 21st Century, war movies will only improve. And that is a good thing, because it is always best to remember the Robert E. Lee quote "It is good that war is so terrible, else we would grow too fond of it." As a war gamer, I seek out these movies to keep at least a little perspective when the Heavy Machine Gun takes out two squads with a "KIA" roll of snake-eyes and you just take two counters off the board.
This movie has two obvious contrasting films. One is the recent Inglorious Basterds, which also starred Brad Pitt. I didn't like that one at all, because I am not always fan of Tarantino. I don't think it is cool to make comedy out of violence….well, that can be done and it is fine and can be funny, but Tarantino makes violence into porn by simply keeping the camera on the blood for far too long. Right at the beginning of Fury is some up-close and personal violence (it has been remarked on in most reviews); if Tarantino had made this movie, the climax of that scene would have lasted at least 60 seconds longer, for little gain to the film. In my opinion. this film has plenty of violence, of the distant see-the-machine-gun-drop-those-German-helmets-in-the distance type, and the up-close and personal exploding tank type. There is no need to linger on each act of violence, and this movie doesn't.
The other reference point is Saving Private Ryan &/or the Band of Brothers series perhaps (same sets, etc.), which was the last time Hollywood took a look at WWII American GIs in direct combat. I saw Pvt Ryan in a theater and I knew there were real WWII veterans in there with me, though I didn't walk in personally with any. It was an experience I will never forget.
Fury doesn't have quite the epic-ness level of action that Pvt Ryan had, but was still quite good. The actors were good, the realism was there, the symbolism was kept succinct. Watch for the horse's hooves right at the end. No, I don't know what they mean, just pay attention to what color they are. The ending, well, you decide. It was April, 1945 after all.
The technical notes we are all interested in:
This movie uses the last working Tiger tank in the world. An excellent scene. Richochets are well done throughout the movie. I now want to give highly detailed, computer video gaming of tank combat a try. Multiple tanks with teams using radios as in real WWII would be a fascinating gaming experience. Perhaps the computer could play the poor Russian tanks with no radio…you hope they do something smart to help your side. Or, you play in a tank with no radio. Good luck. I have no idea if such a game exists, but it should.
I played a lot of Squad Leader (really Cross of Iron, a whole lot) back in the day, though I ultimately tired of I-Go-You-Go tactical AFV combat. I never did punch out the counters for GI:Anvil of Victory. But I can't recall if any tanks had two machine guns on the turret. Bow and turret, yes. Also in Squad Leader I never thought of firing smoke rounds at an enemy tank….I hope that is a possibility in ASL.
Other things I appreciated - the CGI shot of an Allied LND-4 armada overhead. With a half dozen smoke plumes rising in opposition to try and stop the six dozen plumes advancing into Germany. A short shot, but telling.
I don't think I've ever seen as many Panzerfausts in a movie as this one.
The Germans were not really part of the dialogue, etc., as in some war movies. This was about American soldiers, and that is a good approach. Nevertheless, the writers gave the Germans some good lines, for example when they are opening a crate of what I first thought might be Panzerschrecks someone says "Make these count. They are all we have now." A nice reminder that it is April, 1945 after all. A German officer also gives a short pep talk that helps keep the perspective on this being a war, not a video game.
I also liked how the movie dealt with what militaries report to be the single most difficult thing to train a soldier to do: to kill another human being. They estimate that only 1/4 of soldiers in WWII actually aimed at the enemy, while most simply fired in their general direction. This movie tackles that subject directly.
One thing I thought a little off was a text note on-screen at the beginning "In April 1945, the Allies fought deep in Germany. They faced more fanatical resistance than ever before." This is true but only somewhat. The odds an American unit met a German unit with high morale were low, I believe. Of course, there were still SS units fighting. But they were somewhat few and far between I think. In Hollywood though, the GIs always fight the SS.
The last WWII book I read was earlier this year, a new one called "The End" by Ian Kershaw. It examined why the Germans kept fighting in 1945, as this movie ponders out loud at points. Despite reading a book length treatise on the subject, much of which I was already familiar with in a general sense, I still can't wrap my thoughts around that existential question very much. I'll probably re-read "The End" again some day, and I will watch this movie a couple more times in a year or so. And I think I will still not understand such a deep historical tragedy.