poiler alert! If you haven’t seen the movie Fury, you might want to skip this until you’ve seen it.
So, still here? Let’s look at how (as writers) we need to make sure our bit characters have their own motives to ensure our worlds feel realistic.
Fury is a movie about a World War Two American tank crew. At the end of a very busy day, they are assigned to hold (at all costs) a crossroads to keep the Germans from punching through a weak spot in the lines. Of course, the rest of the tank platoon gets ground into filings by a Tiger Tank, so now the job is fully on Fury’s (the tank’s name) iron shoulders.
After arriving at the critical crossroads (and finding the one mine that has been planted in what seems, in retrospect, to be the most logical place for a mine), they now sit disabled in the literal crosshairs. And here comes the Germans, marching, singing, unbeatable.
I don’t agree with letting them get close – a tank gun with HE could make paste out of infantry in open ground. Regardless, the battle is joined and the tank fights waves of Nazis like a cornered rat. In the end, the “kid” has to escape out a belly hatch before grenades tossed through the topside hatch go off. Now under the tank, with nowhere to go and jackboots all around him, the kid attempts to cover himself with dirt and play dead.
But one young SS trooper stoops down and shines a flashlight on him. There he is, dead to rights. Germans all around. Yet the trooper just flicks off the light and marches off. And so our young hero is left to survive the battle.
Okay, that got me. Maybe it’s a trait, but I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. Let’s reverse this and say that in an alternate timeline, the Germans have landed in New York, have broken through with superior armor and airpower, and are now driving through to DC. We can’t stop them. They are bombing us from the air, leveling our cities, cutting our army to ribbons. In desperation, we launch a drive at New York, only to have a single tiger tank kill hundreds of our young, poorly equipped men. In the end, we destroy it but all hope is lost. As our tattered remnants withdraw, a kid from the Arkansas National Guard happens to look beneath the smoldering tiger to discover one of the crew (who has just helped to slaughter hundreds of fellow guardsmen). Does it make sense that he would not call out?
The movie even mentions this earlier. “Why don’t they just surrender?” The answer: “Would you?”
It was a compassion I couldn’t understand, one extended by the totally defeated to the ruthless victors. That an SS trooper (no less) would extend mercy to the enemy of his people, at a time of desperate last-ditch combat, doesn’t make sense. To me, the action was too scripted, too feel-good Hollywoody. It should have been filmed better, shown better, staged better, or dropped. Otherwise, it’s just silly.
My two cents…
>>>ODD, BUT THERE IS A SCENE WHERE THE TANK SERGEANT MAKES HIS YOUNG UNBLOODED NEWBIE KILL A PRISONER – THAT FELT LIKE A SCENE I WROTE IN “FIRE AND BRONZE”. WANNA SEE IT? MY NOVEL IS CHEAPER THAN A MOVIE TICKET!<<<