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By Tom Demerly.

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Brutal and intimate, Fury delivers an artful insight into the horror of war so masterful it leaves you tense and beaten.

Writer and Director David Ayer, who also made Training Day and End of Watch, rivals the terror and rhythm of Saving Private Ryan in Fury but with a more visual and animated presentation. Many of the scenes in Fury appear ghostly and impressionistic, almost like a graphic novel. They combine a vivid and experiential depiction of war. The movie is so effective at drawing you in you leave the theatre stiff and battle fatigued, as though you had spent cold hours in a rattling Sherman tank like the characters so brightly brought to life in the movie.

Fury opens a little clunky, trying a little too hard to show the horrors of war and knocking off the initial story line of Saving Private Ryan perhaps more closely than not. Once the movie moves out, literally and figuratively, it hits its stride and you better take a deep breath.

The second act of Fury is one of the most incredible scenes in any war movie. In an artful reflection of the true horror of war, David Ayer builds this scene without a shot fired or even a weapon in the scene. It is only characters, dialogue and circumstance combined with terrifying contrast and predicament that build an awful tension. Ayer was brilliant to include this scene because it adds an ingredient missing from the current perspective of conflict; context. It dramatically shows the contrast between fragile civility and apocalyptic war. Most war movies show sweeping battlefields and fast action. This scene brings the horror of war into your dining room. This scene alone is a triumph of the film and leaves you ragged and stressed.

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The degree of technical accuracy in Fury is remarkable, down to the minute details of personal equipment, tactics and set dressing. The entire production is built around meticulous attention to detail, and this realism supports a plot that does, at times, feel like a bit of a stretch until you recall your history of WWII. Fury is likely more realistic than we’re comfortable accepting.

In a four on one tank duel with the vastly superior German Tiger I tank, the U.S. Sherman tanks demonstrate the authentic tactics used to try to defeat the boxy German monster, and with the usual authentic result. This scene conjured images of the huge tank battles in the Iraq Wars along with WWII.

Brad Pitt is predictably excellent and does not weigh the film down with his brand. Other characters follow the real life storylines of the people you knew in the army; the offensive hick, the Latino, the brainy guy. Those stereotypes are redone in Fury but with maxed-out realism. If there is a standout performance in the film it is Alicia von Rittberg as Emma. Her character is a flower in the battlefield, and this impossible contrast creates an unbearable tension.

Fury is an ordeal to see. You don’t leave wanting another look, but you do leave in awe of what a well-crafted visual story can do to you. It’s also an ode to the harrowing ordeal of our greatest generation and the horrors that contrast against their great successes. Fury earns its place on the shelf with truly great war films with its realism, horror and even its sensitivity.

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By Tom Demerly.

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Max the kitten has died.

He was only 5 weeks old.

Max’s introduction into this world was bad. Someone abused him when he was only 2 weeks old. He suffered a broken back and hind legs, likely thrown out of a car or building. His injuries went untreated for another 2 weeks. Eventually a Good Samaritan named Jman found Max and wrote about the kitten’s difficult life on Facebook. People reached out and helped.

But it was too late.

What can we take from the short, tragic life of Max the Kitten?

We have choices of how to shape the world. We can build a world of empathy and kindness, or be indifferent and callous.

There are many things we can’t change about life and the world, but within our sphere of influence- the small spectrum of things we can influence- we have an individual choice. We can build our own little world. The man who found and helped Max built that world for him, a world of safety and love. So despite Max’s injuries and suffering he left this earth from a good place after entering it from a bad one. Mankind initially failed him, but tried to redeem itself.

As small individual worlds of healing and kindness are created, they slowly begin to connect to a collective goodness. The world we build, built one person, one small sphere of influence, begins to slowly connect into a greater goodness.

There is a belief that how a person and culture treats animals is reflective of their overall character: if they are kind or cruel. There is science that shows empathy is taught and grows from empathy, and cruelty and indifference does the same. Humans are not wired a particular way. They reflect what they are shown.

So while there is tragic sadness to the cruelty heaped upon poor little Max and his death, there is also hope in the care and love he received in his final week.

The problem is the race between these two extremes is a tight one.

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With humanity comes the responsibility of massive intellect. In general mankind has done a bad job of administering this responsibility. Mankind isn’t very kind. Our collective conduct is rife with cruelty and indifference. But within our own individual worlds we can build something better. A place where empathy and compassion are our greatest virtues, the first things we do, and in that we become wiser, stronger, smarter and more fulfilled in our own brief, ephemeral lives.

Nobel Science Prize winner, author and inventor of the communications satellite, Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “We each create our own reality”. Clarke’s observation is true. And while our collective reality is rife with disparity and conflict, our individual realities can be abundant with kindness and empathy, a haven from the friction that exists between these extremes.

Eventually similar realities begin to connect into something called a “functioning core”. These connected realities become a group of people who expand the values of empathy and kindness across cultures and humanity. The virtue of kindness and empathy rises to trump selfishness and solitude.

I didn’t want Max’s short feline life to go unnoticed, nor did I want to leave Jman’s act of empathy unrecognized. Because these things are our moral compass. Our collective guidebook to something better. Our hope. One kitten at a time.

Postscript:

If you want to help create a greater functioning core and build an individual reality of kindness and empathy, you can. Volunteer at your local animal shelter. Spend a day at a local food bank. Make a donation, however small, to a cause that helps those who cannot help themselves. Here are two of my favorite:

The Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter in Tucson, Arizona:

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The Dearborn Animal Shelter in Dearborn, Michigan:

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