Fury


The premise behind the new film Fury is ridiculous:
In the end, it's a poignant and tragic interlude, the best passage in the film, one that addresses the damage — psychological, emotional and physical — that war causes beyond the immediate casualties of battle. Its qualities also cast a shadow on the remainder of the film, which is occupied by a quasi-suicidal mission that Wardaddy is ordered to undertake by a captain (Jason Isaacs, sporting a thick New Yawk accent). The command is issued so quickly that it's not really clear why it's so important for Fury and three other tanks to rush behind enemy lines; the Americans know they're going to win, so the puzzlement over the reason for sending men into such peril at this stage impedes one's investment in the climactic action.
It's this part of the drama that most closely resembles Samuel Maoz's 2009 Israeli film Lebanon, which detailed what it's like for men to occupy a fetid, claustrophobic metal vault on wheels while being bombarded by hard-to-see foes. But plunking Wardaddy and his men down in such an impossible position doesn't feel right dramatically, and the sergeant's stoic reaction, while perhaps philosophically apt for the circumstances, introduces a note of windy grandiosity that mildly rubs the wrong way against everything that's come before.

It is a fact that we have glorified the tank and the Special Forces soldier. Neither win wars or battles. It is the infantry that has always mattered more, and it was the common infantryman, plodding along at a slow walk, that ground down the enemy. Hollywood can't stop showing us tanks; how many anti-tank guns appear in this film and are they accompanied by tank destroyers, assault guns, and horses? What you would have found on these battlefields are numerous horses and support vehicles. The vaunted German blitzkrieg was a propaganda myth and their army went to war with horses.

Tanks did not fight without infantry for very long. By 1945, an American tank platoon or company would be supported by infantry; any functioning German tanks that it would encounter would outclass them almost instantly. Such encounters were rare because the Germans could not use their own roads in the daytime. Their rail system was paralyzed. The German ingenuity with anti-tank weapons was also well known--without infantry, a tank would be a useless, riddled mess if it ever managed to encounter the enemy. I saw that the Germans were in camouflage--good for them. Where did they ever think to get so many healthy young men for one unit? Ah, they were SS troops--easier to demonize and destroy. Fair enough.

In the trailer for Fury, you can see a company of smartly attired Germans marching in close ranks--impossible by that stage of the war because of relentless air sorties and the logistical breakdown of Germany's military. There were still weapons being cranked out in small factories all over the country but the manpower was severely lacking. Many of the units defending the country were Volksturm formations, consisting of boys and old men, and this is a detail that Fury gets right. There were few, if any, crack units left in any shape to carry out counterattacks or assaults. Defensive formations were far more likely, but the Germans were surrendering wherever they could at that point.

Many of the historical details seem accurate to me, but the actual combat is what's wrong--the need for a single tank to do what an infantry company should have done is what stands out.  What I've seen so far indicates a film built around needed to create a plot without bothering to figure out that historical reality was just as good.

The Americans, by this stage of the war, were at the end of their supply tether, exhausted, and many units were peppered with replacement troops. Veterans were in short supply, so Fury shows us the replacement mentality. They were routing a dispirited enemy that was terrified of having to turn to the East and fight the Russians. Hopefully, there are better details in the film than in the trailer.

You should never discount a film based on the trailer, of course, so I'll probably see Fury.