21 July, 2014

No, No. The OTHER WWII Fury.

I know I'm late to the party on this, but I am excited for Fury.

In preparation for what I hope is a decent movie (consider the director's track record: End of Watch is supposed to be great and Sabotage, um, not), let's go over a pair of WWII tank movies that are worth seeing:

Kelly's Heroes has greatest straight up tank fight in cinema history. And that's mostly because it might be the only tank duel in cinema history (which just can't be true, can it?).

As a film, Kelly's Heroes is more on par with something like Catch 22 than The Dirty Dozen. Or Where Eagles Dare, for that matter. It's gleeful and irreverent, and it takes the second world war about as it does a clown with his pants down. Or maybe it just doesn't take WWII movies seriously? Either way, Kelly's Heroes is a butt-load of fun and a perfect encapsulation of what Hollywood thought of the 1960's counter-culture.

It's a movie that laughs at the kind of square-jawed heroes that populate 1940's and 50's war movies.Yet it's savvy enough to know that tanks are cool and that Nazis are bad and it's fun when these things are slammed together.

I won't spoil the ending, but the entire climax of the film is built around the idea that the Tiger tank is the baddest piece of machinery ever built and that a rag tag bunch of screwballs may not be up to the task. Then it gets weird.

Then there's Sahara (the Bogart one). While a tank (an M3 Lee) is central to the plot, it really isn't about tanks. It's about the men who ride in and on them. The tank itself is a piece of shit, but it's got a kind of can-do charm of a dog with three legs. It's also notable for including just about every single member of the Allied Forces in some capacity helping our heroic tank crew along the way (it also includes both Italian and German enemies, which is about as rare of a feature in a film as a tank fight).

Sahara survives as an interesting film for a few reasons. The first, and the most important being, it's a Humphrey Bogart movie. While not all Bogart movies are created equal (there's Casablanca and The African Queen and then there's Beat the Devil and Sirocco), a good Bogart film is a great reminder of just what a presence he was as an actor. (There's a reason he's Michael Caine's favorite actor.)

The second reason is that Sahara is a perfect example of "the kind of movie they don't make any more." It's a war film, but it's light and it's loose and there is no question as to what the good guys need to do. There's a clear line in the sand as to what good guys do and what bad guys do. While it is the kind of film that helped to build up the myth of World War II, watching it, even now, it's not hard to see why we see the war the way we do. Sahara paints a picture of a war that needs to be fought and is worth fighting for. And hey, that's not such a bad thing, is it?

So, before you see Fury, go see these movies. At least we know they're good movies. And if not. . . Well, screw you. You don't want Clint Eastood and Don Wrickles on a caper? You don't want Humphrey Bogart and Jeff Bridges' dad defending your freedom? Are you so joyless?


With no little retinence, I am excited about Fury.

Despite Sabotage. Despite Mr. The Beef and his almost certainly mentally ill antics. Despite having recently been burnt by another special effects driven WWII movie. Despite always getting burnt by having any sort of investment in anything, I am excited. And there's a lot to be excited for. The movie has a great lead, a director who has turned out at least one impressive film in his burgeoning career, and the technology exists to make the convincing and worthwhile tank that I that we deserve.

That is until somebody finally gets the guts to adapt The Haunted Tank into a movie.

James Kislingbury makes comics, hosts podcasts, and generally just does his thing. You can follow him on twitter, too.