It’s April 1945. The war is almost over and the Allies are making their final push into battle-torn Germany. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) commands a tank nicknamed “Fury” and its veteran crew. These men have all been together since the North African Campaign two years earlier, so they’re brothers in arms, ready to fight until the bitter end. Private Norman (Logan Lerman) is a fresh recruit and the team’s youngest soldier. Plunged into war, Norman realises he’s out of his depth, but there’s no going back. Collier and his team are on the front line, outgunned and outnumbered. It’s either kill or be killed.
Fury is director David Ayer’s nightmarish take on World War II. There are no private-Ryan-search-and-rescue scenarios here. Ayer is more interested in the effect war has on these men and how they cope with the chaos. The opening shot more or less confirms Fury isn’t going to be one of those war films where the good guys save the day and everyone cheers and it’s happy ever after. Fury opens with a man on a horseback, moving like a ghost, through mounds of corpses. It looks like something from the apocalypse. As grim as it is, it’s an excellent opener and right away I was hooked.
The best thing about Fury is the way it captures the bloody reality of war. The crew are not sent on various missions, but instead simply moving through Germany, from town to town. Nazi soldiers ambush the team many times on their journey and Norman’s inexperience becomes a problem for the crew. Norman has never seen combat and he can’t bear the thought of taking another life. The rest of the team are much more headstrong, but sadly, dehumanised. For instance, tank loader Grady (John Bernthal), has become quite unstable. The film underlines the dehumanising effects of conflict while questioning morality in wartime.
As the crew move deeper into Germany, Ayer throws in explosive shoot-outs and battle sequences. These scenes are hellish and gruesome, and we get the sense of claustrophobia among the crew inside the tank. We feel the physical, gut-wrenching effort it takes to haul the tank up hills and through ravaged towns. Battle-burned Germany is tense and convincing, and the traditional war-movie showmanship is, thankfully, absent.
To Ayer’s credit, Fury is ambitious and pulls no punches, but it’s nothing to get too excited about. Some of the characters feel contrived and there are some bad bits of dialogue. Also, what’s up with the resolution? I won’t spoil it for you, but it feels soft compared to the rest of the movie.
One thing is clear: War is hell. Fury is a solid war film, with impressive set-pieces. It shatters the good-versus-evil concept that we see far too often in movies about a conflict. Ultimately, we get a sharp taste of being stuck in a tank behind enemy lines, in a battle to the death.
Written and directed by: David Ayer
Stars: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Run Time: 146 minutes.