Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Fury is the name of a tank in Germany in WWII that is manned by a fiercely cohesive group of guys who have just lost one of their own, although the rest of the crew and the tank survive. The film opens with a lone German SS officer on a horse coming slowly toward us as a silvery figure through the morning fog. As he nears, we see a battlefield strewn with blown-up tanks and dead or wounded bodies. The more inferior American tanks have been beaten by the Germans’ and the officer is inspecting the damage, when suddenly “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt) swoops down out of the Fury and unseats him. The ferocity with which he does it clues us in to Wardaddy’s bile toward the SS and the bloody story that is about to be told; but there are also strains of kindness, as when the American sends the now riderless German horse back to where it belongs.
As he likewise accomplished in End of Watch, writer-director David Ayer manages to weave together disparate elements of story-telling into a fine mosaic with character development, aspects of humanity from the brutal to the heroic, ethical/moral quandaries, excitement, and suspense. Pitt is pitch perfect in playing a war-hardened soldier who tries desperately to hold on to whatever scrap of grace and humanity he can grasp. He is thoughtful and patient toward his men, allowing them wide range, but is quick as lightning in setting limits and making decisions. He tells his new recruit Norman (Logan Lerman), who is having an awful time going from a desk job to being a driver/gunner in a tank, “You’re no good to me unless you can kill Krauts.” He turns philosophical when he also tells him, “Ideals are peaceful; history is violent.”
Lerman shines in this role, giving further evidence of his up-and-coming status in the movie business—he has Perks of being a Wallflower, two Percy Jackson films, and 3:10 to Yuma behind him. Here, he is transformed from an over-emotional greenhorn with a cultured background to a valiant hero. Back-up roles provided by Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, and Jon Bernthal contribute to the excellent casting.
A huge relief in the midst of the explosions (the film’s special effects are very good) is an interlude in which the company can take a break for an evening, and Wardaddy again shows a compassionate underlay and responsible mentoring by taking Norman inside a German apartment occupied by two women. I won’t be a spoiler and describe it, but it comprises a situation almost unheard of in war movies. The interlude does not last long, since they are called back to battle in the middle of the night for their most challenging set-to with the Germans yet, which is a little too unbelievable to be effective.
A finely composed, illustrated, and acted war drama.
Grade: A- By Donna R. Copeland
BRAD PITT LOGAN LERMAN SHIA LABEOUF
MICHAEL PENA JASON ISSACS
This is a different speed of film for director David Ayer, whose intense, rapid-fire action films like End of Watch and Sabotage have come to define his capabilities. Where Fury does feel reminiscent of Ayer’s work is in the violence and the destruction, just at a much slower pace. Ayer, who also wrote the script, has assembled a clever cast led by Brad Pitt who doesn’t seem all that distanced from his Inglorious Basterds character. The rest of the cast is playing somewhat against type. Fury might just be one WWII film too many for some; and not that this is a new or original idea, but Ayer’s goal here is to document the horror of war.
“Ideals are peaceful; history is violent,” Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) states to the latest member of the Fury tank combatants. Norman (Lerman) was trained to type 60 words a minute; not fire machine guns at Nazis. Collier and the rest of the crew, which includes “Bible” (LeBeouf) who is always praying and crying, “Gordo” (Pena), and “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal). All of them relish every opportunity to use women to their benefit and drink away their pain. It’s 1945, and American tanks are not built like the German tanks, but Collier refuses to abandon Fury, which he calls his home even when hope appears lost.
The structure of Fury is nearly identical to any popular submarine film in the space between the battles, fighting against all odds, and allowing character development between the bloody battles. In one particular scene, Fury plays a life or death game like Battleship, as their specific maneuvers will determine whether they live or die: It’s four American tanks versus one mammoth German tank. This is Ayer’s specialty, creating dire circumstances in which it appears there is no way out. Yet, those exciting and gripping war scenes don’t make an entire film; on the whole, there isn’t anything groundbreaking here, nor are the performances strong enough to garner any awards or stand out among the great war films of the past.
Pitt certainly holds the film together as the stern, no-nonsense leader who doesn’t jump at orders from younger commanders, and will only let his crew push him so far before he bites back and regains control. Ayer has always succeeded at writing masculine characters while also showing their emotional side, which he does again here, in combination with Collier in his moments away from the group and Bible who is overflowing with emotion. There is a post battle dinner scene that gives the audience the greatest character development, and one of the few scenes where each actor is allowed to show the true colors of his character. Fury won’t be remembered as a great war film, but it does serve as a reminder of the sacrifice, darkness, and destruction of war.
Final Thought – Ayer directs this tank battle film like a submarine film and it works, mostly.
By: Dustin Chase