4 Shots From 4 Films: Sabotage, The Raid 2, John Wick, Fury


2014 had it’s share of very good action films and here are four that I was particularly drawn to. While the film themselves were of varying degrees of quality in terms of storytelling. These 4 films all had one thing that I enjoyed despite their films’ flaws. They all had action scenes that I thought were quite excellent.

You have gritty present-day action thriller, an operatic gangster epic, a revenge thriller and a war film. One stars an aging action star back from playing politician. Another a foreign film whose filmmaker and star have set the bar for all action films for years to come. Then there’s the stunt coordinators and 2nd unit directors finally making their mark with their first feature-length film. Lastly, a war film that brings the brutality of World War II tank warfare to the forefront.

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

What if Lisa Marie Picked The Oscar Nominees!


Oscar1

With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010!)

2015 Best Picture Nominees

Best Picture

Boyhood

The Fault In Our Stars

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

*Guardians of the Galaxy*

The LEGO Movie

Nightcrawler

Palo Alto

Under the Skin

Wild

600full-richard-linklater

Best Director

Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler

Jonathan Glazer for Under the Skin

James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy

*Richard Linklater for Boyhood*

Jean-Marc Vallee for Wild

Nightcrawler

Best Actor

Macon Blair in Blue Ruin

Nicholas Cage in Joe

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

*Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler*

Tom Hardy in Locke

Michael Keaton in Birdman

reese-witherspoon-wild-slice

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

Angelina Jolie in Maleficent

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Emmanuelle Seigner in Venus In Fur

Shailene Woodley in The Fault In Our Stars

*Reese Witherspoon in Wild*

Gary Poulter in Joe

Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

*Gary Poulter in Joe*

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

968full-only-lovers-left-alive-screenshot

Best Supporting Actress

Patrica Arquette in Boyhood

Laura Dern in Wild

Emma Roberts in Palo Alto

Rene Russo in Nightcrawler

Emma Stone in Birdman

*Mia Wasikowska in Only Lovers Left Alive*

Vin-Diesel-is-Groot-Official-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy

Best Voice Over Performance

Scott Adsit in Big Hero 6

Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy

Kate del Castillo in The Book of Life

*Vin Diesel in Guardians of the Galaxy*

Morgan Freeman in The LEGO Movie

Chris Pratt in The LEGO Movie

o-BOYHOOD-facebook

Best Original Screenplay

*Boyhood*

Chef

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The LEGO Movie

Nightcrawler

The One I Love

wildhorsedern 4

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Fault In Our Stars

Gone Girl

Guardians of the Galaxy

Palo Alto

Venus in Fur

*Wild*

Lego Movie

Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6

The Book of Life

The Boxtrolls

How To Train Your Dragon 2

*The LEGO Movie*

JodorowskysDune

Best Documentary Feature

Art and Craft

*Jodorowsky’s Dune*

The Last Patrol

Life Itself

Private Violence

Under the Electric Sky

Venus_in_Fur_poster

Best Foreign Language Film

Borgman

Ida

Illiterate

The Raid 2

*Venus In Fur*

We Are The Best!

Boyhood Image

Best Casting

*Boyhood*

Foxcatcher

Joe

Snowpiercer

Under the Skin

Wild

Palo Alto

Best Cinematography

California Scheming

A Field In England

Foxcatcher

If I Stay

Nightcrawler

*Palo Alto*

Meryl-Streep-Into-The-Woods

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

In Secret

*Into the Woods*

Pompeii

Film Review Under the Skin

Best Editing

Birdman

Boyhood

Guardians of the Galaxy

Nightcrawler

*Under the Skin*

Wild

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-gang

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Foxcatcher

*Guardians of the Galaxy*

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

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Best Original Score

California Scheming

A Field in England

Gone Girl

Guardians of the Galaxy

Nightcrawler

*Under the Skin*

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Best Original Song

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

“The Apology Song” from The Book of Life

“Split the Difference” from Boyhood

“Yellow Flicker Beats” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

*”Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie*

“Sister Rust” from Lucy

“Mercy” from Noah

“Hal” from Only Lovers Left Alive

“Rock Star” from Palo Alto

“Summer Nights” from Under the Electric Sky

GuardiandoftheGalaxy

Best Overall Use Of Music

Begin Again

Boyhood

A Field in England

*Guardians of the Galaxy*

Only Lovers Left Alive

Whiplash

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-580

Best Production Design

*The Grand Budapest Hotel*

Guardians of the Galaxy

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Snowpiercer

Winter’s Tale

Fury

Best Sound Editing

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A Field in England

*Fury*

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Capt2-Payoff-1-Sht-v8-Lg-c563d

Best Sound Mixing

*Captain America: The Winter Soldier*

A Field in England

Fury

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Dawn-Of-The-Planet-Of-The-Apes3-e1396236946120

Best Stunt Work

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

*Dawn of the Planet of the Apes*

Divergent

In the Blood

Raze

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-rocket-with-gun

Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Edge of Tomorrow

Godzilla

*Guardians of the Galaxy*

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Number of Nominations by Film

14 Nominations — Guardians of the Galaxy

9 Nominations — Boyhood

8 Nominations — Nightcrawler

7 Nominations — Wild

6 Nominations — Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lego Movie, Under the Skin

5 Nominations —  A Field in England, Palo Alto

4 Nominations — X-Men: Days of Future Past

3 Nominations — Birdman, The Book of LifeCapt. America: The Winter Soldier, The Fault In Our Stars, Gone Girl, Inherent Vice, Into the WoodsJoe, Only Lovers Left AliveVenus in Fur

2 Nominations — Begin AgainBig Hero 6, California SchemingDawn of the Planet of Apes, Fury, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part OneMaleficent, SnowpiercerUnder the Electric SkyWhiplash

1 Nomination — Art and CraftBlue Ruin, BorgmanThe Box Trolls, ChefDivergent, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, How To Train Your Dragon 2, Ida, If I StayIlliterate, In SecretIn the Blood, Interstellar, Jodorowsky’s Dune, The Last Patrol, Life ItselfLocke, Lucy, NoahThe One I Love, Pompeii, Private ViolenceThe Raid 2Raze, We Are The Best!, Winter’s Tale

Numbers of Oscars By Film

5 Oscars — Guardians of the Galaxy

3 Oscars — Boyhood

2 Oscars — The LEGO Movie, Under the Skin, Wild

1 Oscar — Capt. America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Plaent of the Apes, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Fury, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Into the Woods, Joe, Nightcrawler, Only Lovers Left Alive, Palo Alto, Venus In Fur

Oscars

Here Are The SAG Nominations!


Earlier today, the Screen Actors Guild nominations were announced and I love them!  Not because I agree with all of them but because they’re a nice mix of the expected and the surprising.  Every category had at least one surprise and really, it’s the surprises that make Oscar Season so much fun.

For what they are worth, here are a few observations from yours truly:

When it comes to predicting the actual Oscar nominations, the SAG are usually an excellent precursor.  It makes sense — the Actors Branch is the biggest of the Academy’s voting branches and many of the same people who determined the SAG nominees will also be casting ballots for the Academy Awards.

At first, I was really shocked to see that Selma was totally snubbed.  However, I then read over at Gold Derby that apparently, because of production delays, a screener of Selma was not available for the SAG voters.  So, a lot of the voters made their nominations without having seen Selma.

Foxcatcher did not receive an ensemble nomination but it did receive nominations for Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo.  That’s especially good news for Carell, who has yet to be much of a factor in the precursor voting.

Speaking of which, everyone keeps taking about how Foxcatcher hasn’t been a major player in the precursors. What about Unbroken?  For a so-called Oscar front runner, Unbroken certainly hasn’t received much from the critics groups.

(I should note that I have yet to see either Foxcatcher or Unbroken so I don’t have an opinion on whether either one of them deserves awards.)

Among the big snubs: Amy Adams for Big Eyes, Jessica Chastain for A Most Violent Year or Interstellar, Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night, and Oscar Isaac for A Most Violent Year.

My favorite nomination was Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler.  I haven’t seen Cake but I was happy to see Jennifer Aniston nominated because it was unexpected.  Robert Duvall’s great but wow, was the Judge ever a disappointing movie.

I was shocked to see Naomi Watts nominated for St. Vincent but it actually makes sense.  Her role in St. Vincent really was awards bait.  And who doesn’t love Naomi Watts?  (That said, I thought her performance was a bit cartoonish.)

Both the Grand Budapest Hotel and especially The Theory of Everything are looking more and more like probable best picture nominees.

And here are the nominees:

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-580

Best Ensemble:

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Jennifer Aniston in Cake

Best Actress

Jennifer Aniston in Cake

Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Robert Duvall

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall in The Judge

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Edward Norton in Birdman

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Naomi Watts

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game

Emma Stone in Birdman

Meryl Streep in Into The Woods

Naomi Watts in St. Vincent

Xmen

Outstanding Stunt Ensemble

Fury

Get On Up

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Unbroken

X-Men: Days of Future Past

The Brief Thrill Of The Phoenix Film Critics Nominations


Lego MovieI have to admit that, when I first looked at the just-released Phoenix Film Critics Nominations for 2014, I got really excited.  I saw The LEGO Movie listed among the nominees for best picture and I thought to myself, “Oh my God!  Could The LEGO Movie be set to be the fourth animated film to score a best picture nomination from the Academy!?”

Seriously, my inner movie trivia lover was so excited!

Then, of course, I remembered that critical recognition doesn’t necessarily translate into Oscar nominations.  And I was forced to admit that The LEGO Movie probably will not be nominated for best picture, though it definitely remains a front runner for best animated feature.

But, for a few moments there, I was truly an excited Oscar watcher.

Anyway, here are the Phoenix Film Critics Nominations!

(h/t to Awards Circuit)

BEST PICTURE/ TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Gone Girl
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Lego Movie
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
  • David Fincher, Gone Girl
  • Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
  • Brendon Gleeson, Calvary
  • Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Amy Adams, Big Eyes
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Hilary Swank, The Homesman
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  • Logan Lerman, Fury
  • Edward Norton, Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
  • J. K. Simmons, Whiplash

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
  • Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone, Birdman

BEST ENSMEBLE ACTING

  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Into the Woods

BEST SCREENPLAY WRITTEN DIRECTLY FOR THE SCREEN

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Whiplash

BEST SCREENPLAY ADAPTED FROM ANOTHER MEDIUM

  • American Sniper
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Wild

BEST LIVE ACTION FAMILY FILM

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Into the Woods
  • Maleficent
  • Muppets Most Wanted

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • The Lego Movie
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2

OVERLOOKED FILM OF THE YEAR

  • Calvary
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Obvious Child
  • The Skeleton Twins
  • Snowpiercer

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Force Majeure
  • IDA
  • Mood Indigo
  • The Raid 2

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Citizenfour
  • Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
  • Jodorowsky’s Dune
  • Life Itself
  • Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • Everything is Awesome, The Lego Movie
  • Immortals, Big Hero 6
  • Lost Stars, Begin Again
  • Miracles, Unbroken

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Birdman
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • The Theory of Everything

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Unbroken

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Gone Girl
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Snowpiercer

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into the Woods
  • Maleficent
  • The Theory of Everything

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Interstellar

BEST STUNTS

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • John Wick
  • Need for Speed
  • The Raid 2

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE ON CAMERA

  • Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Jenny Slate, Obvious Child

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE BEHIND THE CAMERA

  • Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
  • Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
  • Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child
  • Jon Stewart, Rosewater

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUTH – MALE

  • Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
  • Daniel Huttlestone, Into the Woods
  • Jaeden Lieberber, St. Vincent
  • Ed Oxenbould, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUTH – FEMALE

  • Lilla Crawford, Into the Woods
  • Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar
  • Sterling Jerins, And So It Goes

grand-budapest-hotel

A Most Violent Year Is A Most Unexpected National Board Of Review Winner!


A Most Violent Year

The National Board of Review has spoken!  They named their picks for the best of 2014 earlier today and — to the shock of many (especially me) — they picked JC Chandor’s crime drama A Most Violent Year as the best film of the year!

I love surprises!

Now, a lot of us were expecting A Most Violent Year to be an Oscar contender, with practically everyone expecting Jessica Chastain to either be nominated for best actress or supporting actress.  (The NBR named her best supporting actress.)  But I think a lot of us were expecting to see the NBR select Boyhood, Birdman, or maybe Selma.

Also of note is that Clint Eastwood won best director for American Sniper, which appears to be coming on strong as a potential Oscar nominee as well.

(Also of note: Foxcatcher was totally ignored by the NBR.)

Here are the NBR winners!

BEST PICTURE
“A Most Violent Year”

BEST DIRECTOR
Clint Eastwood, “American Sniper”

BEST ACTOR (TIE)
Oscar Isaac, “A Most Violent Year”
Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

BEST ACTRESS
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Edward Norton, “Birdman”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, “The Lego Movie”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”

BEST ENSEMBLE
“Fury”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM 
“Wild Tales”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
“Life Itself”

SPOTLIGHT AWARD
Chris Rock for writing, directing, and starring in “Top Five”

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCES
Jack O’Connell, “Starred Up” and “Unbroken”

DEBUT DIRECTOR
Gillian Robespierre, “Obvious Child”

WILLIAM K. EVERSON FILM HISTORY AWARD
Scott Eyman

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
“Rosewater”
“Selma”

BEST PICTURE NOMINEES (alphabetical)
“American Sniper”
“Birdman”
“Boyhood”
“Fury”
“Gone Girl”
“The Imitation Game”
“Inherent Vice”
“The Lego Movie”
“Nightcrawler”
“Unbroken”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE NOMINEES (alphabetical)
“Force Majeure”
“Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem”
“Leviathan”
“Two Days One Night”
“We Are the Best!”

BEST DOCUMENTARY NOMINEES (alphabetical)
“Art and Craft”
“Jodorowsky’s Dune”
“Keep On Keepin’ On”
“The Kill Team”
“Last Days in Vietnam”

BEST INDEPENDENT FILMS (alphabetical)
“Blue Ruin”
“Locke”
“A Most Wanted Man”
“Mr. Turner”
“Obvious Child”
“The Skeleton Twins”,
“Snowpiercer”,
“Stand Clear of the Closing Doors”
“Starred Up”
“Still Alice”

Review: Fury (dir. by David Ayer)


Fury

“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”

1998 saw the release of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.

Prior to this most films depicted World War II as a noble endeavor that needed to be done to help rid the world of Hitler and the horror he was inflicting upon Europe (beyond if given the chance). It gave birth to the “Greatest Generation” that people still look up to even to this day. These were young men who volunteered for a conflict that would change history and for the millions involved. Yet, World War II films were always cut and dried. It was always the good guys (American, British, Canadian, etc…) fighting against the nameless and efficient Nazi war machine.

In time, so many of these films followed the same formula that character stereotypes came about. We always had the cynical, older veteran who becomes a sort of father figure to a hodge-podge group of young, untested soldiers. What these films also had in common was the fact that they remain bloodless despite the nature of the story being told. Some filmmakers would try to buck this time-tested formula (Sam Fuller being the most prominent), but it would take 1998’s Saving Private Ryan to set a shift in how we saw World War II.

Spielberg lifted the rose-colored glasses from the audience and dared to show that while noble, World War II was still war and it still had the horror and brutality that all wars have. 2014’s Fury by David Ayer would continue this exploration of the last “Good War” in it’s most gritty and blood-soaked detail.

The film shows the last gasp of the German war machine as Hitler gives one of his final orders for the German people to repel the invading Allies. It was to be a scorched earth defense. Whether by choice or forced into this desperate tactic, every man, woman and child was to take up arms to their last breath to defend the Fatherland. It’s in this nightmare scenario that we find the veteran Sherman tank crew led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier trying to survive these final days til war’s end. Their home for the last two and a half years since North Africa has been a modified Sherman tank they call Fury. It’s a crew that’s been battle tested from the sands of North Africa, the maze-like hedgerows of France’s bocage and now the countryside of Germany itself.

We can see right from the start that this crew has been through hell and back many times and already resigned to going through hell many more times before they can eveb think of getting back home. It’s a crew that’s already lost one of it’s own minutes into the film. Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) looms over his crew like a weary father figure. This ragtag group consists of Bible (Shia LaBeouf) as the born-again Christian who sees their survival battle after battle as a sign that God’s grace is upon Fury and her crew. Then we have Gordo (Michael Peña) who has been so traumatized by the war and what he has had to do to survive that he has numbed himself from these memories by being in a constant state of drunkenness. Lastly, we have the tank’s loader Grady (Jon Bernthal) whose misanthropic attitude comes as a crude and brutish counterpoint to Bible’s religious fervor. Into this misanthropic soup of a crew comes in the replacement to their recently killed comrade.

Logan Lerman’s character, the young and naive clerk typist Norman Ellison, becomes the audience’s eyes in the brutal world of Fury and her crew. We’re meant to see the war’s brutality and horror not through the jaded and cynical eyes of Wardaddy and his men, but through a young man who has never killed an enemy or even fired a weapon in anger. Norman becomes the surrogate through which we determine and decide whether there is such a thing a nobility and honor in war.

Honor and nobility have always been used by those always willing to go to war to convince the young and impressionable to follow them into the breach. Fury takes these two words and what they represent and muddies them through the muck and gore left behind with each passing battle and tries to see if they remain unchanged on the other side. Norman is a literal babe in the woods as he must adapt or die in a war nearing it’s end but also becoming even more deadly and dangerous than ever. His very naivete quickly becomes a hindrance and a real danger to Wardaddy and his crew. He’s not meant for this world but has had it thrust upon him.

The film treats Norman’s humanity as a liability in a war that strips it from everyone given enough time. We see Wardaddy attempt to speed up the process during a tense sequence where Norman’s being forced to shoot a German prisoner. It’s a sequence of events that’s both unnerving and disturbing as we see the veteran soldiers encircling Norman and Wardaddy cheering or looking on with indifference in their eyes. They’ve all been in something similar and one can only imagine what they had to do to make it this far.

Fury straddles a fine line between showing and explaining it’s themes to the audience. It’s to David Ayer’s skill as a writer that the film’s able to use some finely choreographed scenes both violent and peaceful to make a point about war’s effect on it’s participants both physically and mentally. Whether it’s through several well-choreographed battle scenes to a sequence of tense and quiet serenity in the apartment of two German women that bring back the plantation segment from Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Redux, the film does a great job in showing how even when stripped down close to the bone, Wardaddy and his veteran crew still has semblance of humanity and the honor and nobility they all began the war with.

As a war film, Fury brings a type of combat to the bigscreen that has rarely been explored and never in such a realistic fashion as we watch tank warfare at it’s most tactical and most horrific. Ayer doesn’t fall for the jump cut style that many filmmakers nowadays sees as a way to convey the chaos of battle. Ayer and cinematographer Roman Vasnayov have planned every sequence to allow the audience to keep track of the two opposing sides and their place in the battle’s geography. And just like Spielberg’s own Saving Private Ryan, Fury shows the very ugly and bloody side of World War II. There’s a lot of bodies being blown apart and torn to chunks of meat yet they never seem to come off as gratuitous. Every bloody moment makes a point on the horrors of war and the level of inhumanity that another man inflicts on another man.

If there’s something that Fury does lag behind on it would be some of the narrative choices dealing with Norman’s character. The film takes place literally over a day’s time and the quick change in Norman’s mentality about the war seem very sudden and abrupt. While this day in the life of Fury and her crew worked well in Ayer’s past films (both as writer or director) here it puts Ayer stuck in a corner that made it difficult to fully justify Norman’s sudden change of heart from babe in the woods to hardened Nazi-killer. We can see throughout the film that the war is affecting him in ways that could lead up to this change, but to have it happen in just under a day really stretches it’s believability to the breaking point.

Yet, despite this the film is able to stay on course and recover from this misstep on the strength of Ayer’s direction and the performances of the ensemble cast. Brad Pitt has been the focus of the media campaign leading up to the release of Fury, but every actor who comprises the crew of Fury leave their own mark in the film. Shia Labeouf has had a tough past year both professionally and personally, but one has to admit that performances like the one he had in Fury is a reminder that he’s a damn fine good actor. Whether this film has become the path to his redemption in the eyes of the public is irrelevant. One doesn’t need to like the man to respect the talent he’s able to put up on the screen.

Awards season is in full swing as Fall 2014 arrives and Fury makes it’s case known that genre films (and make no mistake this is a genre film) can more than hold it’s own with the more dramatic life-exploring films that critics tend to put on the pedestal as examples of great filmmaking. While Fury is not perfect it is a very good film full of great performances that just misses being great.

 

Trailer: Fury (International)


Fury-2014-Movie-Banner-Poster

I must admit that World War II films are a favorite of mine. Even bad ones I tend to enjoy. Whether it’s alternate fantasy fares like Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds or something that combines historical accuracy with dramatic license like Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, the World War II genre always manage to hit straight and true to my film wheelhouse.

This October there looks to be another World War II film that seems almost tailor-fit for me. I’m talking about David Ayer’s follow-up to his underappreciated film End of Watch. This follow-up is Fury and tells the story of an American tank crew in the waning days of World War II in Europe. Just from the two trailer released I already know that I’m seeing this. Ayer looks to be exploring the bond of a tank crew that has seen war from the deserts of Africa and now to the urban and forested landscapes of Germany.

The film is already getting major buzz as a major contender for the upcoming awards season and I, for one, hope that it’s a well-deserved buzz. Even with Shia LaBeouf being part of the cast is not dampening my excitement for this film. Even if it doesn’t live up to the hype I know that I’ll probably still end up enjoying it.

This trailer looks to be selling the utter brutality and carnage of World War II’s final days in Europe when German forces were literally fighting for their homeland and that makes for a desperate enemy (who still had weapons and soldiers that were still hands down better than what the Allies had one-on-one).

On a side note, I like the fact that the tracers in the film actually look like tracers which means they look like freakin’ laser blasts. That’s how tracers behave.

Fury is set to hit theaters on October 17, 2014 in the United States and October 22, 2014 internationally.