Salman Rushdie is probably one of the most well known writer of literary fiction in the world. His fame is not based on his great technique, social or personal insight, prose style or any of the other things that a writer may wish to be famous for. Salman Rushdie is famous for The Satanic Verses, and for the anger it provoked, leading to him being sentenced to death by the fatwa of the Ayatollah Khomeini. For reasons of both his personal safety and his literary reputation, this is probably not what Salman Rushdie wants to most be remembered for. And yet, the furor of the controversy over The Satanic Verses will probably overshadow Rushdie's skills as a writer.

And this brings us to Fury, a short novel written and published in 2000. The book predates the World Trade Center attacks, although it does seem to be vaguely prophetic, in that it takes place in New York City and the anger of the third world, and those of Islamic origin, are themes of the book. But let me back up and say that when I started reading it, I didn't know that: all I knew was Rushdie's fame, and that his writing was considered to be literary and complicated. My first impression upon reading the book was that Rushdie was obviously a skilled and interesting writer, stylistically using a great deal of complicated descriptions, and having plots and characters and interludes that were both entertaining and complex. Until about half way into the book, however, I was somewhat annoyed with the overall tone of the book. The book is about an Indian professor from Cambridge, who has also incidentally invented a doll and television show resembling Dora the Explorer, who has suddenly moved to New York City for reasons of great personal rage. What was annoying to me about this is that it seemed like an author insertion tract, where the protagonist was used to voice the author's typical left wing bourgeois opinions. In other words, this seemed like a book written by a professional leftist literati where the main character was a professional leftist literati who spent his time complaining. It was also, despite a few odd incidents, a fairly straightforward book.

About halfway through the book, however, the various odd plot strands and characters started to coalesce. They did so in a variety of odd and interesting ways that made the book into the proverbial "page turner". For example, there is a plot surrounding the deaths of a trio of young society women, who the protagonist's best friend, a successful but troubled African-American journalist, is somehow involved in. From its original realistic plot, the twists and convolutions become more ridiculous, while never crossing the line into outright fantasy. For example, there is a plot late in the novel about a civil war on the South Pacific Island of Lilliput and Blefuscu, which despite taking its name from Gulliver's Travels, is actually a fairly accurate fictionalization of the civil war fought in Fiji in the year 2000.

If any of this sounds confusing, it should: one of the best things about the novel is that it manages to sprawl. Although not a very long book---only 250 pages in trade paperback size, it somehow manages to have a confusing, intricate series of plots, with a great amount of descriptions of various odd people and places. It also has a great deal of literary references, to things such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Dune, Gulliver's Travels, and Greek Mythology. And all of this comes off as natural, and not as forced or pretentious.

So the biggest upshot from this is that I now know Mr. Rushdie as a truly original and skilled writer, and that his books are worthwhile to read outside of the controversy he engendered over two decades ago.

I admit to being a tank geek. I love the big mechanical monsters, so when I saw the first trailer for Fury staring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf right away I noticed they were using a real M4A3E8 I just had to go. But I'm also a bit of history geek, and have read extensively how tanks are used and their strengths and weaknesses in combat. Fury is first and foremost a war movie, which means total fidelity to history cannot be expected. It's fiction. Nevertheless, though it follows the expected tropes Fury is a pretty good war movie and much more faithful to reality than expected.

The story is set in the spring of 1945 and Germany was beat. Pretty much everyone but Adolf Hitler knew it, and deep down he probably knew as well. Possibly because of the false yet popular "stab in the back" explanation for Germany's defeat in World War I (along with fear of the Russian hordes) Germans kept fighting. The German Army of 1945 was not the same army that conquered France in 1940. Years of war had left a corps of extremely skilled veterans leading poorly trained old men and teenagers, many of whom would have been considered unfit for service when the war began. Excellent leadership aside, the quality of the German fighting man had declined sharply due to losses while the American soldier was far better than he had been when Americans first fought in North Africa in 1942. In addition, German soldiers has little to no fuel to maneuver with. The Luftwaffe had been thoroughly beaten before D-Day and almost never took to the sky thanks to fuel shortages. Like I said, Germany was toast. But they hadn't surrendered yet and while many German soldiers were quite inclined to surrender when they thought they'd survive others fought fanatically in defense of their homeland.

Ahead be spoilers!

The story begins with a common trope, a totally green soldier Norman (Logan Lerman) is assigned to veteran crew commanded by Wardaddy (Pitt). Their Sherman tank is named Fury. They've been fighting together for a while are highly skilled but they've just lost a crewmamber, probably to a panzerfaust. Wardaddy is a bit of an enigma as he's been fighting since North Africa in 1942 and made clear in a later scene that Fury isn't his first tank. Norman is a clerk, who has never even been a to armor school but war produces casualties and at such times typing skills mean far less than the ability to operate a machine gun. A Sherman is crewed by five people, commander, gunner, loader, driver and assistant driver, who is sometimes called the bow gunner (Sherman tanks had a hull mounted .30 caliber machine gun). Norman is to become bow gunner, which is appropriate because any green tanker would start there as it is the least demanding job. There is horrifying scene where he is asked to clean up his position including removing a large section of the dead tanker's face. But then they have a mission and are moving out and he is now expected to gun down anything he sees moving through the woods on a road march.

In a world full of kids with panzerfausts even bow gunners can make the difference between life and death. Norman sees what seem to be kids in the woods and doesn't shoot. As a result the platoon commander's tank is destroyed needlessly along with its crew. Norman gets a lot of well expected abuse but they arrive in time to conduct a town assault. Note how the soldiers cluster behind the tank using it as a sheild. (there would have been a telephone mounted on the back of Fury so the infantry commander and Wardaddy could talk). They do a pretty good job of showing how a tank/infantry team would have conducted a town assault.

There's a long interlude in a town where they do a decent job of showing what happens when an army takes over an enemy town. They sack it. By now you know Fury is a pretty gritty film, but here they go a bit farther. Wardaddy all but forces Norman to shoot an SS prisoner because he thinks the kid needs to get over his fear of killing. This isn't so convincing though even ultra-nationalists need to know that shooting prisoners was a fairly common practice in World War II by all countries and America was not exempt. Same for rape. Still, the sacking of the town seems mild by sacking standards. But then he shows a paternal side. He finds a pretty German woman in an apartment and enjoys a family style dinner and sets Norman up with a really pretty German girl played by Alicia von Rittberg. Wardaddy is more complex than expected. He speaks fluent German is is clearly far more educated than your run-of-the-mill sergeant though the film makes no attempt to fill in his backstory. In fact backstory is pretty much ignored for all characters. The rest of the crew finds them and is quite rude to the Germans, implying rape to come though it does not. Wardaddy calms them and then they're called to duty.

This is where the accuracy really breaks down. There's whole in their lines and a plane has spotted a good sized German column headed right for it. Warded and his platoon of four tanks is to block it. My problem is centered on how they send four tanks without a bit of infantry. Wardaddy doesn't even ask for a platoon. Let it be known that a platoon of tanks and a platoon of infantry together are way, way more dangerous together than either separately. Any veteran would know this. So not sending any is simply a plot device to set up the final battle.

On the way they are ambushed by a real Tiger I. The battle is well conducted using smoke and maneuver to beat a tank that outguns and out armors any Sherman. My quibble here is though they use smoke a real tanker would also have used incendiary (white phosphorous or willie pete) ammo on the Tiger. It won't penetrate, but starts small fires which can bleed through cracks in the Tiger's armor, whose welding and workmanship were not always up to what one would expect of German engineering. Sometimes willy pete caused German crews to bail out, though I'm quibbling here. The scene really was well constructed and serves its purpose of leaving Fury and it's crew alone in the face of an overwhelming enemy force.

They hit a mine. It's seen as an annoyance and they begin immediate repairs which is exactly what an experienced crew would do. But the enemy is too close. They'll never finish in time. Now they must choose to fight a suicidal battle or flee and leave the road open to the hospitals they're protecting. Thanks to Pitt's Wardaddy refusing to leave, the crew stays as well setting up the final battle.

I have problems with this. A tank on the move could fight a fine delaying battle. A stationary tank surrounded by enemies is a large coffin. Even a clever plan doesn't buy more than a few minutes against veteran leadership. German soldiers of early 1945 were poorly trained but their leaders have survived battle after battle. Trust me, they knew how to fight tanks. This is also a lost opportunity. It would have cost more, but would have been much more realistic and potentially interesting. Fury's final battle is fine as movie battles go, but could have been better.

Still, I rather enjoyed the film. It's a good war film and the tropes are handled lightly enough they don't annoy. The historical accuracy is pretty good for a movie, though Fury is no documentary. The cinematography is good enough to make it worth seeing on the big screen. Many things were much clearer than they would be on even a good TV. I recommend the film. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Fu"ry (?), n. [L. fur.]

A thief.

[Obs.]

Have an eye to your plate, for there be furies. J. Fleteher.

 

© Webster 1913.


Fu"ry, n.; pl. Furies (#). [L. furia, fr. furere to rage: cf. F. furie. Cf. Furor.]

1.

Violent or extreme excitement; overmastering agitation or enthusiasm. Her wit began to be with a divine fury inspired.

Sir P. Sidney.

2.

Violent anger; extreme wrath; rage; -- sometimes applied to inanimate things, as the wind or storms; impetuosity; violence.

"Fury of the wind."

Shak.

I do oppose my patience to his fury. Shak.

3.

pl. Greek Myth. The avenging deities, Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megaera; the Erinyes or Eumenides.

The Furies, they said, are attendants on justice, and if the sun in heaven should transgress his path would punish him. Emerson.

4.

One of the Parcae, or Fates, esp. Atropos.

[R.]

Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears, And slits the thin-spun life. Milton.

5.

A stormy, turbulent violent woman; a hag; a vixen; a virago; a termagant.

Syn. -- Anger; indignation; resentment; wrath; ire; rage; vehemence; violence; fierceness; turbulence; madness; frenzy. See Anger.

 

© Webster 1913.

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