Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Film Review - Fury

I went to see Fury today and I can highly recommend it, especially for the lovers of tanks and World War II movies.  My personal MOS when I attended the Fort Knox School for Boys was Armored Scout Observer, though being National Guard oh those many years ago, I never served in that role in anger.  I enjoyed the film very much and it held my interest so well that I hardly noticed the film’s over two hour length. 

It is a fantastic thing to watch a movie about World War II in which I am not asked to pretend that an M-48 Patton tank is a German Tiger tank or that an M-24 Chaffee is a Sherman.  The last movies that come to mind to do that were “A Bridge Too Far” and before that “Kelly’s Heroes” (courtesy of the Yugoslav army and Tiger mock ups built out of Soviet MT-LBs) or some of the various Soviet era movies about their “Great Patriotic War.”  Of course, Soviet filmmakers had an advantage because the Red Army never threw away any of their T-34s, etc (they gave away a lot of them and one could get nit-picky about what year different model T-34s entered service, but hey they were still T-34s!).

The depiction of the weaknesses and strengths of the Sherman tank and the tactics that had to be used to overcome or take advantage of those are also reasonably well portrayed (as are the tricks and habits of living and fighting in the same place – your tank).  This was especially true of the battle by 4 Shermans against a lone Tiger tank firing from ambush.  Obviously, it helps when you are able to draw upon the resources of The Tank Museum at Bovington in the UK which has the only running model of the Tiger tank in the world plus the staff who know how to fight those two model tanks against each other.  (The Tank Museum at Bovington ranks as one of the top armored fighting vehicle museums in the world.  Two others are the Central Museum of Armored Fighting Vehicles at Kubinka, Russia and the Tank Museum at Saumur, France.  Much of the collection at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky has been moved to Fort Benning, Georgia and is not yet on display there.  I've had the happy opportunity to visit all of these museums personally, though there are others still on my bucket list.)

The story told in the movie takes place in April, 1945 though perhaps they don’t make that sufficiently clear, especially how every combat arms soldier in the American (and British) armies by that time is  desperately trying to not be the war’s last casualty.  The characterizations are all pretty well presented within the world view framed by the film though a couple of moments might be considered rather overdrawn and exaggerated, especially by those accustomed to the more classic Hollywood portrayals of American GIs.   Just about every incident depicted in the film can probably be demonstrated to have actually happened during the war – but the filmmakers exercise fully their capability to concentrate them all within a roughly two hour film rather than burden the viewer with the long hours and even days of military routine and boredom that were also a part of the reality of World War II.  The film also makes every effort to expose the viewer to the mud, blood, gore, and noise of the war, though the movie cannot share any of the myriad smells of war and a battlefield nor the blinding feel of the smoke from fires and explosions.

SPOILER ALERT:  The climactic battle of the movie brings to mind a Soviet tankisti epigram learned from the film “The Beast” (aka “The Beast of War”) about a Soviet tank crew (including a World War II veteran) fighting in Afghanistan, “Out of commission, become a pillbox. Out of ammo, become a bunker. Out of time, become heroes.”  With complete recognition that “it’s only a movie” I would suggest that it also shows why a cannon-armed armored vehicle will remain an important battlefield weapon for some time to come as five men in a tank engage several hundred lightly armed infantry supported by man-portable anti-tank rockets, crew-served weapons, and thin skinned vehicles.  (Personally, I might have dismounted the two turret mounted machine guns and positioned them to either flank of the tank and the road it sat on – but that’s perhaps just me and we never learn whether or not they have the mounts to use.)  

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