Atonement for Americans in WWII, Best Pull Quotes from NYTimes on David Ayer’s Fury

The trailer for David Ayer’s Fury leaves a lot to the imagination. One has no idea what is really going on except that it looks hard core and it looks cool. The hype revolving around Fury comes from its director, Ayer, and its star, Brad Pitt. The New York Times’ Michael Cieply writes a detailed profile of Ayer’s film that gives us much more to go on. Here are the cherry-picked pull quotes:

1.

In what promises to be one of the most daring studio movies in an awards season that will bring several World War II films, Mr. Ayer, Mr. Pitt and a band of producers backed by Sony Pictures Entertainment are poised to deliver what the popular culture has rarely seen. That is, a relentlessly authentic portrayal — one stuntman was run through with a bayonet on the set — of the extremes endured, and inflicted, by Allied troops who entered Germany in the spring of 1945.

In the last few weeks, Mr. Ayer has been tidying up “Fury,” dropping in the last of his special effects shots and filming some brief inserts.

Mainly, the film, which cost about $80 million, was shot in Britain. Access to tanks was a prime consideration. Vintage Shermans were more readily available there. Plus, the production was permitted to use a rare, working Tiger tank, lent by the Tank Museum in Bovington.

The fetish for authenticity extended to uniforms. Most were tailor made, and battered, to avoid falling back on rentals that might be familiar to those who had seen them in films stretching back to “Battle of the Bulge” (1965), but which had little connection to the real tankers’ weathered gear, or to the surprisingly sophisticated camouflage worn by the Germans.

According to Kevin Vance, a former member of the Navy SEALs who consulted on the film and appears in it, the bayonet accident occurred when a combat scene got too real. An actor stabbed a stuntman, he explained, mistaken for a dummy lying on the ground.

2.

The resulting movie, Mr. Ayer said, was intended both as a personal journey and as a correction to the pop cultural record.

On the personal front, “Fury” is meant to unlock the psychology of Mr. Ayer’s older relations, who fought but seldom spoke of it. And the film trades on his own military experience as a sonar operator on an attack submarine in the 1980s.

“Looking back into World War II, I could see the same family I was serving with,” Mr. Ayer said. “But what they experienced was really incomprehensible to me.”

The time also seemed right for an honest look at those who were fighting and dying in ferocious encounters even as the German surrender was imminent, he said. “There is a lot of contemporary parallel here,” Mr. Ayer said, referring to soldiers who confront death in Afghanistan, for instance, even as American engagement there is supposed to be ending.

Their problem is that of Mr. Pitt’s character, known as Wardaddy, and the four tankers — portrayed by Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal — whom he has pledged to keep alive, Mr. Ayer said.

“Nobody wants to be the last man to die in the war.”

The cast, Mr. Bernthal added, was pushed by Mr. Ayer to behave as if “this was the last movie you were ever going to make.”

Mr. Pitt’s decision to take the role of Wardaddy was a sudden one. Early last year, he read the script during a quick trip to Europe, and, on returning, immediately jumped in.

Apparently, it mattered not that Mr. Pitt’s partner, Angelina Jolie, is directing a very different World War II story, Universal’s prisoner-of-war drama “Unbroken,” which will soon be competing with “Fury” on the awards circuit. A third drama set during the war, “The Imitation Game,” starring Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch, is also expected to set an awards push from the Weinstein Company. And Sony has already released “The Monuments Men,” a more lighthearted wartime caper, that opened in February.

3.

As the movie opens, they are preparing to scrape the remains of a headless buddy from the bow gunner’s seat. “I sure didn’t keep him alive,” Mr. Pitt mutters.

Much of what his Wardaddy does may shock viewers who have watched American soldiers behave brutally in Vietnam War films at least since “Apocalypse Now,” but have rarely seen ugliness in the heroes of World War II.

In his harsh initiation of a new gunner, Mr. Pitt’s character crosses lines, both legal and moral. Not even Lee Marvin’s Sergeant Possum in Samuel Fuller’s “The Big Red One,” another knife killer, went quite so far.

Don Evans, a World War II tank gunner who advised Mr. Ayer, now cautions that some scenes in “Fury” are more extreme than what he witnessed in 28 months overseas. “I don’t recall anyone having to kill a buddy,” Mr. Evans said in a phone interview.

Surprisingly, Mr. Evans, who has read the script, said he was wary of the film’s thrust, adding, “I am not looking forward to seeing it.”

“It was a long, brutal war, up close and personal,” [says Tom Brokaw] “A number of veterans I interviewed alluded to behavior they weren’t proud of, but neither did they apologize.”

4.

For Amy Pascal, the chief executive of Sony’s film group, “Fury” becomes the latest in a bold series of Oscar season bids that in recent years have included “The Social Network,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips” and, with Mr. Pitt, “Moneyball.”

Each, in its way, was a tough-minded film that pushed to the edge of its particular genre. None captured the big prize, a best-picture Oscar.

But all did what Mr. Ayer may do with “Fury”: jolt viewers into a fresh, and fractious, conversation about the movies and ground truth.

This time around, the subject will be those damaged tanker-heroes.

“In the end, they would hose out the blood, slap on some paint, and grab some cooks and clerks to crew up the vehicle again,” Mr. Ayer said, in an email crammed with explanations and afterthoughts.

“Sorry about the wall of text,” he added. “But this is something I’m passionate about.”

9 Comments on this Post

  1. David Ayer is one the most interesting directors in America right now, I feel as if he’s creating a style and language that’s unique without being gimmicky — but I also feel that he’s having some trouble getting people to accept his style and learn his language.

    End of Watch was one of the best films of 2012, in my opinion, so I’m really glad to see Ayer has the same team working on Fury. Same cinematographer, Roman Vasyanov, same film editor, Dody Dorn.

    Ayer is not mainstream and he’s not trying to be — so that’s going to be a problem for audiences who like things familiar and homogenized.

    Bravo to Brad Pitt for once again recognizing a serious artist when he sees one, and for once again lending his name-brand clout to help draw attention to that artist.

  2. Bryce Forestieri

    +1

    Just based on those two Ayer collaborations, Vasyanov seems versatile as hell. The look of FURY is so is exquisitely precise and sharp I might have to look the other way whenever violence happens in that film as I presume it will. And ditto about Brad Pitt, I’ve been saying this for a long time but what a filmography this actor is going to end up with. Now that he’s recruited Steven Knight and Juan Bayona to be in charge of the WORLD WAR Z sequel I couldn’t be looking forward any more.

  3. ‘David Ayer is one the most interesting directors in America right now, I feel as if he’s creating a style and language that’s unique without being gimmicky — but I also feel that he’s having some trouble getting people to accept his style and learn his language.’

    Hmmm. Agreed that he’s an innovator, but End of Watch didn’t convince me that he’s anything exceptional. His innovation extends only as far as one can relate it to that of comparable mainstream American filmmakers.

  4. His innovation extends only as far as one can relate it to that of comparable mainstream American filmmakers.

    I thought I had that covered when I wrote “David Ayer is one the most interesting directors in America right now”

    :(

  5. Alex Wagner

    What did you think of Sabotage, Ryan?

  6. “What did you think of Sabotage, Ryan?”

    oops. Can we make this be a question about Joe Manganiello? Because I’m fully prepared to endorse Joe Manganiello.

    I thought John McCain was really good in Sabotage. He reminded me of Schwarzenegger a little.

    I might need to come to terms with the realization that David Ayer has right-wing leanings, and you know that would be difficult for me to reconcile.

    But hey, I’ll stop hedging and say that I thought Sabotage was better than everybody else thought it was. Can I get by with saying that?

    Now, back to Joe Manganiello.

  7. Well yeh, you kinda did. But your comment at least appears to refer to all American directors. I was referring to those in the mainstream exclusively.

  8. What’s wrong with right-wing leanings? If you really think about it, 95% of Hollywood films are pretty solidly conservative in the traditional sense of the word.

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