“Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory”.
~General George S. Patton
As the sole survivors of a brutal skirmish, a tank crew led by Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, find the adage “no rest for the wicked” to be a bitter truth, as the Allied forces make their final push towards Berlin. With their crew one man short, after the death of their assistant driver, the crew find themselves being saddled with a “cherry” in the assistant driver’s seat.
A clerk typist with NO training must now muck in with a crew that has been fighting together since the war was being fought in the deserts of Northern Africa. “Wardaddy” and his boys will have their patience tested by their “greenhorn”, but ultimately they will all be tested with likely the most dangerous mission they have ever faced. They are tasked with holding a crossroad and providing cover for an army supply convoy in a do-or-die style scenario.
The performances are solid yet on occasion slightly suspect, and at times character credibility backslides into pure stereotype. The actors manage to give a glimpse of men removed from “civilized” existence and the ugly toll war takes.
Brad Pitt, in the role of “Wardaddy”, does not simply dust off Aldo Raine (Inglorious Bastards) and march him out onto the screen as many might expect. He effectively plays a battle hardened tank commander, a man who must remain tough for his own sake and that of his crew.
One can see that while he is able to stifle his own humanity in order effectively carry out his role in battle, it catches up to him at times.
Jon Bernthal, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena make up the remaining crew of the tank called “Fury”. They provide a more familial sense to the concept of brotherhood in the way they act towards each other, with Pitt obviously a father-type figure. They display the attitude of “we’re family so we’re allowed to pick on each other, but there will be hell to pay if anybody else tries”. They also display a subtle sense of caring for one another that can only be shared by men who have trusted one another with their very lives as long as they have.
They display a bitterness at times of men constantly reminded of their mortality as if being toyed with by death itself.
Logan Lerman is the rookie tank crew member and is a bit of a question mark, making a far too rapid turn from moral absolutist to a killer without conscience. Being new to the experience of war one would expect him to hold on to his sense of humanity a bit longer.
Many of the other supporting performances give the impression of these soldiers as damaged and exhausted men who have traveled to hell and back all the while waiting for fortune to make up its damn mind whether to frown or smile upon them.
David Ayers has tackled gritty subject matter before, although most of it has encompassed the crime riddled streets of Los Angeles. He does make a rather respectable effort a tackling the horrors of war, having written and directed Fury.
The film is not slick or pretty, nor should it be. Visually it’s drab, hazy, dirty and cold. He unapologetically drags the audience directly through the muddy, gritty, blood covered landscape of the war-torn German countryside. On screen deaths are brutal, graphic, and ugly, because lets face it – WAR IS UGLY.
Battle sequences involving the tanks are intense and well choreographed. Being somewhat claustrophobic myself, any action during battle scenes that took place in the close quarters of the tanks definitely raised the anxiety level. The movie does build well towards its conclusion, with one awkward side step that does seem to serve a distinct purpose.
Ultimately, the audience is asked place their faith in an endgame that is not just unbelievable – its borderline absurd. Of course we as movie goers are somewhat willing to accept a modicum of absurdity so long as it’s not wrapped in historical context.
Audiences should not go in to Fury expecting the sentimental camaraderie of Saving Private Ryan, nor the over the top and somewhat tongue-in-cheek spectacle that was Inglorious Basterds. While it is an entertaining film it doesn’t build any lasting relationships between the audience and characters. There are likely no gold statues in this films future, but not every film has to be Oscar worthy to be worth seeing.
Fury will deliver the necessary shock and awe without that feeling of having lost an old friend as the ending credits roll.
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