Tag Archives: war

Fury (2014)

It owes a lot to Saving Private Ryan. I bet writer/director David Ayer watched Saving Private Ryan a dozen times as he got this project ready.

Ayer has a thing with people getting stabbed in the eye. Twice, with something that specific, is a thing: this and End of Watch, which was also a mix of drama and horror with gore. He has jump scares. Many. There’s gore, a surprising amount, like End of Watch.

The least forgettable thing is a section where Brad Pitt’s character and Logan Lerman’s character (he of Perks of Being a Wallflower) lock themselves in an apartment with two conveniently aged attractive German women who are terrified of them while they wait for orders. While we wonder if Senor Pitt will rape one of them, order Senor Lerman to rape one of them, or force them into prostitution or some combination of the two. It’s a scarier version of the relationship Jean Gabin has with the woman who hides him in Grand Illusion (a gal for each guy this time), but it just feels yucky. I have a feeling it’ll be the only thing I remember about the movie in a couple of years because other than that the film is pretty straightforward narratively.

Technically it has some problems. The music is on the nose and out front, with chanting German hymns running right into or out of Save The Day music that wouldn’t be out of place in a TV war movie. It’s shot pretty well, but has choppy editing. It wants to be an art movie, but it cuts away from every scene before any emotional resonance kicks in. There are too many cuts – regular cuts, not Baz Lurhman cuts – where there should be pans or tracking shots. Screen time better used for a few more moments with characters were stopped short to spend time watching the tanks drive down roads. Oddly, I spotted a glaring dub gaffe, which confirms my editing problems suspicions.

Shia LeBeouf does a great job being the beating heart of the group with the Bible character. The (older) woman in a creepy position with Brad Pitt in the apartment played by Anamaria Marinca put a lot into her limited screen time and got across a lot of different emotions without having to say much. The green, Star Wars-like gunfire (and tankfire?) looked and sounded cool or terrifying, depending.

Link to Parents Guide for Fury on IMDB

American Sniper (2014)

I didn’t expect to be as moved as I was. I didn’t know the history of the main character, Chris Kyle, so I didn’t know how his story ended, so I was as surprised as I would have been with any other movie. It lingered with me longer than I expected.

What we’re seeing is not just one character here but a model of manhood in America. The guy can shoot, he can ride rodeo, he can fight, he can survive Navy Seal training, he holds back a woman’s hair when she pukes, he serves on the ground with Marines where he thinks he might be more useful, he uses m’am and sir, he’s a model of manhood. As an American guy I felt it – he’s what you do.

Some stuff played out how I expected, for example, you see a scene start and the way it’s played, who says what, you know who’s getting killed. Other stuff didn’t. I was pretty shocked by a traumatic scene involving a family. Kids are used a lot in this. Kids in danger, kids being coerced for good or ill, kids as a reason to do good or to be responsible. That can be a cheap shot, it’s a reliable source of emotion. But, one scene in the middle that is set up perfectly near the beginning has such high stakes I found myself literally talking to the screen (“don’t go in there”, more or less).
In some of it I knew I was being coerced. I was aware. I went along with it.

Bradley Cooper, who looks an awful lot like the guy as he’s shown in the pictures at the end, pulls off the humble/amazing/leader/gentlemen/troubled guy thing really well.
A couple of things it tries to straddle I don’t know if it totally nails. The PTSD is not played down, but it’s dealt with in a way that doesn’t diminish from his sense of duty. I got the sense that HE could make it in combat, though he could get really scarred, but that others couldn’t, it would be too much for them. Their weakness is alluded to, and there’s a practicality in that in terms of who you’d want in your squad, but in the end, everyone who fights ends up in trouble in their head. I plan on reading the book, I’m curious about how his brother turns out, because he’s a main character early on and then gradually used only to make points about Clark, so maybe he doesn’t do as well.

I did really feel like I got a sense of place. I felt like I knew their house. The domestic drama wasn’t as strong – Cooper, in his role as husband, is better at being stony and then saying something positive, but I read an article today about how this is pretty accurate for how some vets and their wives feel in conversations with vets.

I don’t know about the racist thing. It makes some specific points about good/bad within the Bad Guys (“savages”) and puts a couple of Iraqi people at risk to show their bravery, and it humanizes a critical ‘enemy’ character just long enough, but overall it’s not about making a fair statement about the Iraqi people. It has to demonize them to a certain degree or we wouldn’t empathize – so yes, probably racist.

Again, though, I was inspired after the shock wore off. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been thinking about it for a while and about Kyle as a role model. That surprised me, I can be pretty cynical, but this hit the right buttons.

Short Reviews: The Fly (1958), The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965)

The Fly (1958)

Really surprised by how good this was. Smart, solid sci-fi movie with heart, as much about loyalty and love as it is science. It takes the idea of the scientists’ wife being overly aware of flies in the room when the police are questioning her (to make her look crazy) and through the course of the movie loads it with so much meaning. It’s too bad the thing most referred to is her scream at seeing his head, it’s just a small part of the story.

Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965)

Based on a spy novel very popular when it came out in 1963 by John le Carré (of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy fame). Black and white. Really well-shot, takes its time getting into the story. Spy movie checklist: grizzled old spy (check), maze-like plot with new information piling up higher and higher until the very end (check), gal who takes a shine to grizzled spy (check), disillusion about politics, government, spying (check). The guy who plays Fiedler, Oskar Werner, is amazing. He got a BAFTA and Golden Globe for it, apparently, it’s a case of giving life to something unique and it effects how the story feels afterwards because of his role in the plot.

“Modern Warfare, Black Ops and Ghosts all take themselves incredibly seriously. They present stories…”

Modern Warfare, Black Ops and Ghosts all take themselves incredibly seriously. They present stories that range from infantile to outright offensive as The Most Significant Texts Of Our Time, with cavernously empty characters booming their leaden clichés as if each word is life-changing, while shit falls down all around them. Pathos is gone, entirely replaced by bathos, trite platitudes exchanged with faux gravitas under the moody green lighting of a high-tech radar screen. Nothing-men with a deranged belief in their own significance, explaining to each other just how IMPORTANT the situation is, and how little time there is to lose. With a meticulously animated frown on their ghoulish console-face.

Rather than taking their stories seriously, these are games that instead only tell you that they’re being serious, over and over, in the hope that you’ll eventually believe it. They’re fatuous experiences, delivered po-faced, by a mentality that believes only shouting provides emotional emphasis. And they need not at all.